UPDATE: The Government of Malta and MSC Cruises have reached a mutual agreement that, exclusively on the occasion of today, cruise liner MSC Opera will not enter Malta’s port.
This decision has been taken following public alarm raised by misleading information given by a local media outlet through a story riddled with partial truths and erroneous details.
It is pertinent to note that according to information received by the Government and medical reviews and clearances granted by other foreign ports the ship has visited, there is no case of Coronavirus on board the MSC Opera which was planned to enter Malta.
Despite the established facts, the Maltese Government and MSC Cruises have decided to approve the re-routing of cruise liner MSC Opera so as to avoid further concern among the Maltese public.
The Government of Malta appeals for responsibility and maturity in statements made in relation to the outbreak of Coronavirus.
EARLIER: The Doctors’ union in Malta are warning of industrial actions, if the MSC Opera Cruise Liner is allowed into Malta. Nurses have joined doctors to warn of industrial action if the Maltese authorities allow the cruise ship MSC Opera to enter Valletta.
Paul Pace, president of the Malta Union of Nurses and Midwives, said it was “madness” for the authorities to even entertain the idea of allowing this ship to enter Valletta.
The MSC Opera is en route to Malta and is due to arrive at 6pm on Friday.
The current position of MSC OPERA is at East Mediterranean (coordinates 36.37511 N / 15.27698 E) reported 8 mins ago by AIS. The vessel is en route to the port of Valletta, sailing at a speed of 13.8 knots and expected to arrive there on Mar 6, 18:00 according to Marine Vessel Tracking system.
The Maltese health authorities are mulling whether to deny the cruise ship entry into Valletta after it temporarily went into self-quarantine when a former passenger contracted the coronavirus.
Conflicting and retracted reports indicated that the situation is not clear as to whether the ship will be allowed or not.
Martin Balzan, the president of the Medical Association of Malta, said that he had raised the issue with Charmaine Gauci, the superintendence of public health.
UPDATE – The Malta Association of Public Health Medicine notes the impending planned stopover of the MSC Opera. According to media reports, a tourist was diagnosed with COVID-19, following disembarkation from the MSC Opera on 28th February.
Public Health authorities have repeatedly stated that close contacts of any person confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 are to be put under mandatory quarantine. Furthermore, all symptomatic contacts are to be tested.
Should the MSC Opera dock in Malta, it would have to be put under mandatory quarantine until the elapse of 14 days from the 28th February. Maltese authorities would have to test any passenger or crew member who becomes symptomatic in the meantime. It thus seems logical not to allow the ship to dock in Malta. Reports that the Superintendent of Public Health’s decision to this effect has been overruled are worrying. MAPHM fully supports the Superintendent of Public Health’s decision to stop this cruise liner from docking.
The Public Health authorities need to be given full discretion in deciding what is best for the safety and public health of persons in Malta.
In the incident at least five people were injured. Initial reports indicate that the MSC Opera developed some mechanical failure while docking in the Giudecca canal.
Some 2,300 people were allowed to depart a cruise ship in Greece just one day after officials revealed that an Austrian tourist who had already disembarked had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to reports.
The 1,579 passengers and 723 crew members were ordered back on board the MSC Opera in Athens “immediately” Wednesday as the group enjoyed an excursion on the mainland, the Daily Mail reported.
Passenger Antonio Montalto told the outlet that no one explained the order at first — and some passengers assumed it had to do with the tensions on the Greece-Turkey border.
But the captain later explained that an Austrian tourist who left the ship the Friday before, on Feb. 28, came down with the virus. It is unclear where he contracted the illness but he had traveled on the ship for 11 nights from February 17, embarking and disembarking in Genoa in northern Italy — a region highly affected by the deadly bug, according to The Telegraph.
He reportedly began showing symptoms after he left the cruise and was diagnosed back in Austria on March 3.
“The check was to assess if any additional onboard health measures should be put in place following reports that a passenger who had disembarked the ship six days ago had tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus two days after returning to Austria via Northern Italy,” an MSC spokesman said in a statement to the Daily Mail.
The spokesperson also added passengers were never “quarantined and all were able to freely make use of the ship’s facilities and restaurants before it departed yesterday.”
Around 1 p.m. local time Thursday, the vessel was given the all-clear from Greek health authorities to continue its journey from Piraeus to Corfu, Metro UK reported.
Once in Corfu, all on board were allowed to leave the vessel.
Health authorities “deemed the vessel needed no further health measures beyond the ship’s existing strict preventative health measures,” the spokesman said in the statement to the Daily Mail. “There is no reported illness today, nor yesterday, among any of the 2,302 passengers and crew.”
(Updated at 1624)
Developing Story – MaltaToday / Times of Malta / Newsbook / Metro UK / The Telegraph / New York Post / Daily Mail