Second Cruise Ship Blocked From Ports Over Coronavirus Fears

Following a pattern set by the MS Westerdam, a cruise ship in the Caribbean has been turned away from two ports over fears of the coronavirus. The ship, with more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members, was not allowed to dock in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands after it was discovered a crew member onboard was unwell.

The MSC Meraviglia from MSC Cruises arrived in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from Miami on Tuesday morning. After the ship’s command reported one case of influenza onboard, Jamaican authorities, concerned that the man might have the coronavirus, said no one could disembark. The ship left Ocho Rios for its next port of call, Georgetown, Cayman Islands, after waiting to be cleared for nearly four hours.

The ship was expected to dock in Georgetown on Wednesday morning, but the Caymanian Ministry of Health and Public Health Department said on Tuesday night that it could not do so.

“In an abundance of caution, in order to provide protection to the health and safety of the residents of the Cayman Islands, the government has denied permission for the cruise ship to call on Grand Cayman as previously scheduled,” Dwayne Seymour, health minister for the Cayman Islands, said in a statement.

“I hope this voyage doesn’t get any worse,” said Philip Emerson, a British passenger on the ship said in a direct message on Twitter before the decision was made public.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 25, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The incident came on the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said that Americans should brace for the likelihood that the coronavirus will spread to communities domestically.

Earlier this month, Holland America’s MS Westerdam ship was turned away from five countries whose authorities feared that people onboard might have Covid-19. After the Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, one passenger tested positive for the illness. The C.D.C. later said that the woman’s diagnosis was a false positive.

Having another ship blocked from docking is more bad news for the cruise industry, which has already seen falling bookings across Asia. Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, was placed in a two-week quarantine in Japan where hundreds of people onboard fell ill.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, MSC said that the crew member and all passengers on the ship passed mandatory health screenings in Miami before embarking on the cruise on Sunday.

“The crew member had traveled to Miami from Manila, via direct connection in Istanbul,” MSC said. “He developed symptoms of common flu and tested positive to Type A influenza after he visited the ship’s 24/7 Medical Center while already on board. He has no other symptoms.”

The Ministry of Health in Kingston nevertheless said it was acting judiciously to block the ship.

“The crew member had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains with a travel history to a country of interest relating to the Covid-19,” the National Ministry of Health in Kingston said in a statement.