Cruise ships seek safe harbour as coronavirus spreads

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Cruise ships are looking for safe harbour on four continents amid fears they are spreading the new coronavirus that has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide.

As the outbreak has moved beyond its epicentre in China, cruise ships have increasingly been in the spotlight.

On Saturday, they faced trouble in waters off California, Malaysia, Egypt and Malta as those aboard were tested or confined to cabins.

Officials in California are deciding where to dock the Grand Princess cruise ship, after 21 people on board tested positive for the virus.

There is evidence the ship, now idling off San Francisco, was the breeding ground for a deadly cluster of almost 20 cases during an earlier voyage.

Hundreds of people were forced to remain on a Carnival Panorama cruise ship docked in Long Beach, California, while tests were carried out on a sick passenger.

The cruise ship now was givene permission to dock on Monday at the port of Oakland, the vessel’s operator has said in a statement.Passengers on the ship, the Grand Princess, who require “acute medical treatment and hospitalization” will disembark first and be taken to facilities in California, according to the boat’s operator, Princess Cruises.

Other guests on board who are California residents will be quarantined in a federal facility within the state that the company did not identify, the statement said.

Non-Californians will be transported to federal facilities in other states, the company said in the statement late Saturday.

The ship is holding more than 3,500 passengers and crew members. Nineteen of the 21 people on board who have tested positive for the virus are crew members, Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday. Crew members will be quarantined aboard the vessel.

12 test positive for coronavirus on Nile cruise ship in Egypt
Health officials screen the temperature of workers on a Nile cruise ship near Luxor, Egypt, 06 March 2020. According to Egypt’s Health Ministry, 12 people tested positive for coronavirus on a Nile cruise ship coming from Aswan and heading to Luxor. EPA-EFE/STR

In Egypt, a cruise ship on the Nile with more than 150 people on board is under quarantine in the southern city of Luxor after 12 positive tests.

Also on Saturday, the port of Penang in Malaysia turned away the cruise ship Costa Fortuna because 64 of the 2,000 aboard are from Italy. The ship had already been rejected by Thailand, and is now heading to Singapore.

And in Malta, which reported its first case of the virus Saturday, the MSC Opera ship agreed not to enter the Mediterranean country’s port amid local worries – even though there are no infections suspected on board.


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