The 6,000 passengers who were held on a cruise ship off the Italian coast can now disembark after health authorities worked to diagnose an apparently sick Chinese woman before health ministry officials declared her coronavirus-free.
Cruise officials “have confirmed that Italian health officials diagnosed a passenger on board a ship docked in Civitavecchia, north of Rome, Italy with the common flu,” according to a Thursday night statement from Carnival Cruises and its Italy-based subsidiary Costa Cruises.
It said that passengers can now “either disembark or remain on board overnight, at their discretion,” adding that the guests scheduled to disembark “will be accommodated in hotels near the port and embark on Friday.”
The Costa Smeralda landed in the port town of Civitavecchia when two Chinese nationals were placed in medical isolation, confirmed Giuseppe Ippolito, the scientific director of the Spallanzani Hospital.
“They were put in isolation as soon as the diagnosis was verified,” he said in a news conference with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Health Minister Roberto Speranza. At the same event, Conte announced Italy would suspend all flights from China.
“As far as I know we are the first country in Europe to adopt such a precautionary measure,” Conte said, reported the New York Times.
A Costa Cruises spokesperson told The Epoch Times that medical protocols were activated after the passenger showed symptoms of illness.
She was placed in “isolation on the onboard hospital since last night together” with her travel mate, according to the cruise operator. Cruise line spokesman Davide Barbano confirmed that 114 Americans were on the ship when it was held at the port.
Some passengers complained about the day-long hold. “They are doing checks on 2 Chinese passengers and for now (logical) they don’t tell us anything else,” Maria Cartagena, a passenger on the ship, wrote on Twitter. “Kind of stressful.”
The scare comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday declared a global public health emergency over the virus, which has prompted quarantines and lockdowns in Wuhan, China, earlier this month. There have been confirmed coronavirus cases in about 20 other countries, including Italy.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday. “I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak,” he remarked.
The Centers for Disease Control also confirmed the first person-to-person case in the United States, saying the spouse of an Illinois woman who had recently traveled to Wuhan contracted the virus. The U.S. State Department also said it would send another flight to Wuhan to evacuate citizens next week.