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Cruise Ship Denied by Two Caribbean Ports Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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An MSC Cruises ship was turned away from at least two ports in the Caribbean on Tuesday after a crew member fell ill amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

According to The New York Times, MSC Meraviglia was denied from docking in both Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Georgetown, Cayman Islands after port authorities learned that a crew member from the Philippines was ill. However, the Associated Press reported that the employee was believed to be sick with the common seasonal flu.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“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 of the Cayman Islands, said in a statement.

The cruise line expressed frustration over the repeated denial, claiming that the ill crew member and all passengers on the ship had passed a health screening prior to embarking.

“The crew member had traveled to Miami from Manila, via direct connection in Istanbul,” MSC Cruises said in a statement to the Times. “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 ship, which is carrying more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members, is in the midst of a 15-day roundtrip sailing from Miami that had included scheduled stops in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Bahamas, Belize and Honduras.

MSC Meraviglia isn’t the first ship to be turned away from port amid fears of the spreading coronavirus and likely won’t be the last. Tuesday’s unexpected hiccup comes just one week after MSC Cruises updated MSC Bellissima’s Grand Voyage itinerary to Asia.

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Cruises

Holland America Ship Given OK to Cross Panama Canal

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A Holland America Line cruise ship carrying four dead passengers and dozens of others who are sick – including two who tested positive for the coronavirus – has been given permission to pass through the Panama Canal and return to Fort Lauderdale.

The Zaandam had initially been denied entry into Chile on its South American itinerary and then denied the chance to pass through the Canal to get back to its home port in Florida, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

The media outlet said the boat is currently anchored outside Panama Canal waters, where healthy passengers are being transferred to Holland America’s Rotterdam.

The Panama Canal Authority said in a statement it “supports all efforts being made to ensure an expedited return home for cruise passengers and crew on Holland America’s Zaandam.”

Holland America Line released a statement saying “We are aware of reported permission for both Zaandam and Rotterdam to transit the Panama Canal in the near future. We greatly appreciate this consideration in the humanitarian interest of our guests and crew. This remains a dynamic situation, and we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities to finalize details.”

No timetable was given for when the ships would return to Fort Lauderdale, nor did Holland America offer any information regarding whether the number of sick passengers had grown past the previous update of 138. It normally takes 72 hours to travel from the west side of the canal to the east and then back to Fort Lauderdale.

One American citizen is believed to be among the four deceased passengers. The passengers were ordered to self-isolate in their staterooms since March 22.

Whether the Zaandam will be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale for the same humanitarian reasons that officials allowed the ship to pass through the Panama Canal remains to be seen. The Sun-Sentinel noted that several Broward County commissioners were alarmed at the idea of the Zaandam docking at Port Everglades.

Commissioner Michael Udine told the paper Sunday morning that Port Everglades notified county commissioners late Saturday with its mandates for the passengers, including the following:

All illnesses and conditions must be accurately disclosed and documented; the cruise line, at its expense, will provide all protective equipment to all responders; temperature readings are required for all disembarking crew and passengers; and the cruise line, at its expense, will arrange for private ambulance transportation, among other issues.

And, “no less than 24 hours in advance of the start of debarkation, the cruise line will present a security plan for review and approval… how passengers will debark orderly, safely and in compliance with current health advisories (i.e. social distancing). Failure to maintain good order may result in an immediate suspension of the debarkation until the situation is under control,” according to the guidelines.

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