As fears spread throughout the world that the coronavirus will become a full-fledged pandemic, it was only a matter of time before shockwaves reached South Florida’s mighty cruise industry.
On Tuesday, it happened.
The Miami-based MSC Meraviglia, sailing in the western Caribbean, was denied permission to disembark passengers for planned port calls in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands because of concerns that one of the ship’s crew members could be infected.
MSC Cruise, in a statement, pointed out that those fears were unfounded.
MSC said it was “extremely disappointed” with the decision not to allow the ship to disembark in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, which came after the ship was left in limbo for several hours while Jamaican authorities reviewed detailed medical records submitted ahead of the ship’s arrival.
Authorities in Grand Cayman, the cruise line said, refused the ship’s planned Wednesday morning debarkation at its Georgetown port “without even reviewing the ship’s medical records.” Those records, the statement continued, showed a single case of "common seasonal flu [type A influenza] affecting a crew member who had not traveled through territories affected by the coronavirus or subject to any international health restrictions.
“In both cases, the ship was effectively turned away simply based on fears,” the statement said, adding that the crew member and all passengers on the ship passed mandatory health screenings in Miami before the cruise set sail on Sunday.
The crew member had traveled to Miami from Manila, in The Philippines, with a stop in Istanbul. He was isolated from other crew members and guests and given anti-viral treatment and medication. He is now free of fever and nearly recovered.
But Jamaica’s Ministry of Health released a statement defending the decision, calling The Philippines “a country of interest” for the coronavirus and pointing out that the crew member “had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains.”
The Cayman Islands’ refusal was out of “an abundance of caution, in order to provide protection to the health and safety of the residents of the Cayman Islands,” according to a statement by the islands’ health minister published in a New York Times report
After the refusals, the cruise line said in a statement that it was conferring with health officials at the ship’s next scheduled port in Cozumel, Mexico “to ensure that their decision will be based on a factual review of the ship’s medical records, as well as consideration for the pre-embarkation screening and onboard medical and deep sanitation protocols that are in place across MSC Cruises’ entire fleet.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, MSC Cruises announced it had received authorization to dock in Cozumel later in the evening.
The denials followed a pattern set by Holland America’s MS Westerdam, which was turned away from five countries whose authorities feared that people onboard might have the coronavirus.
After the Westerdam was allowed to dock in Cambodia, a single passenger tested positive for the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control later said the diagnosis was “a false positive,” according to the New York Times.
Concerns about catching the virus from cruise ship passengers and crew members were heightened as the world followed the sad plight of Princess Cruises’ Japan-based Diamond Princess, which was quarantined after 10 passengers tested positive.
During the quarantine, the number of cases increased to at least 705, including 42 Americans. Four infected passengers have died.
By RON HURTIBISE, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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