A cruise ship heading to the Dominican Republic to disembark hundreds of passengers after a 14-day tour has been turned away because officials feared eight of those on board, including two Britons, showed potential symptoms of the covid-19 virus.
A joint statement by the Public Health Ministry and Port Authority on the Caribbean island said that the captain of the Braemar reported four Filipinos, two British citizens and two US citizens were under medical observation for symptoms such as fever, coughing or breathing difficulty.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said that it had reported “a small number of influenza-like cases on board. Our medical team has now advised that they are all feeling better. No guests or crew are, or have been, displaying symptoms that are considered to be consistent with those of coronavirus”.
Officials said the ship was carrying 1,128 passengers and 384 crew members and the cruise line said it was “in discussions with the Dominican Ministry of Health and are awaiting advice on the next steps”.
The cruise line’s website shows the ship was due to pick up another load of passengers and set off on a new cruise on Thursday night.
The ship is being allowed to dock and the passengers, those who are aboard the cruise ship can disembark.Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Lopez
Meanwhile, passengers on another vessel met with better luck in Mexico.
The MSC Meraviglia, turned away by two nations due to fears of the virus outbreak, docked at Mexico’s Caribbean island of Cozumel on Thursday and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said passengers would be allowed to disembark,
Mr Lopez Obrador said Mexico had to act with “humanity” after the ship was refused entry at ports in Grand Cayman and Jamaica.
The cruise line had expressed frustration with the rejections, which came after it reported one crew member from the Philippines was sick with common seasonal flu. It said no passengers had shown evidence of the covid-19 virus.
“The ship is being allowed to dock and the passengers, those who are aboard the cruise ship can disembark,” Mr Lopez Obrador said, adding that health inspections will be carried out.
“We cannot act with discrimination,” he said. “Imagine if a ship arrived and it wasn’t even allowed to dock, and they were told, ‘Keep going on your way, see where you can dock.’ That is inhuman.”
He added: “We cannot close our ports, nor can we close our airports.”
“Imagine the desperation and everything it implies, almost 5,000 people on a ship and they cannot get off,” he said. “Why such backward attitudes?”
The case of the Meraviglia illustrated the crisis of nerves over the virus. Mexico has no confirmed cases and MSC Cruises said the crew member had only common seasonal flu, had been placed in isolation and had “nearly recovered”.
Local media showed a small knot of Cozumel residents near the cruise ship dock demanding that passengers not be allowed to disembark, citing fears about potential contagion or effects on the tourism-dependent economy.
Just minutes after Mr Lopez Obrador spoke on Thursday, the governor of the Quintana Roo state, where Cozumel is located, confirmed the ship had docked, but said “no authorisation has been given” yet for passengers to disembark.
Governor Carlos Joaquin wrote that health inspections would have to be carried out first.