Dominican Republic Rejects Cruise Ship Over Virus Fears as Another Allowed to Dock in Mexico

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
February 27, 2020Updated: February 27, 2020

The Dominican Republic rejected a cruise ship on Thursday over fears of the new coronavirus while Mexico allowed another that had been turned away at multiple ports to dock.

The latter ship, the MSC Meraviglia, had more than 6,000 people on board when it docked in Cozumel after being rejected by Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Alejandra Aguirre, the secretary of health in the state of Quintana Roo, said none of the passengers would be allowed to disembark until they were cleared by health officials. She said officials received information about a patient on board who was diagnosed with the flu and that “it is not a case of coronavirus.”

MSC Meraviglia cruise ship
MSC Meraviglia cruise ship (L) is seen in Cozumel, Mexico, on Feb. 27, 2020. (Jose Castillo/AFP via Getty Images)

No cases have been confirmed aboard the ship as of yet, according to owner MSC Cruises.

The cruise company said in a statement on Thursday that Mexican health authorities boarded the ship and administered additional testing on two people who were showing symptoms of the COVID-19 disease: a crew member and a young female passenger. Results from the tests are expected within 12 hours.

“The ship will be alongside in Cozumel while waiting for the results. Once she gets clearance to disembark, she will stay in Cozumel through to the end of the day tomorrow Friday 28 February to allow guests to enjoy the city and its attractions. Guests on board have already been informed,” the company stated.

Earlier, it said it was “extremely disappointed” by the rejection from authorities in Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Authorities in Grand Cayman declined to even review medical records, the company claimed.

cruise ships
This June 3, 2017 file photo shows the upper deck pool area of the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship docked in Le Havre harbour, Normandy, France. (Thomas Padilla/AP Photo)

The Dominican Republic, meanwhile, turned back the Braemar on Thursday because, officials said, eight passengers showed symptoms of the COVID-10 disease, which is caused by the new virus.

A joint statement by the Public Health Ministry and Port Authority said that the captain of the Braemar reported four Filipinos, two British citizens, and two U.S. citizens were under medical observation for symptoms such as fever, coughing, or breathing difficulty.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines said in an emailed statement 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. ”

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are symptoms of the new virus.

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 Thursday night.

“We have ordered that it returns to its destination,” Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas said, indicating that passengers and crew were among those ill. He said the ship already had been barred by another port, which he did not specify.

The situations unfolded weeks after drama with other ships in Asia. Japan allowed the Diamond Princess to dock in Yokohama but placed the ship under quarantine after a passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong tested for the new virus. Hundreds of passengers eventually became infected and scores were ultimately evacuated to their home countries on chartered flights.

Holland America’s Westerdam was rejected by Japan and other nations before being allowed to dock in Cambodia. Officials insisted there were no confirmed or suspected cases of the new virus on board but an American woman who flew to Malaysia tested positive for COVID-19, triggering quarantines for those still in Cambodia.

Those remaining the country all tested negative, the country’s Ministry of Health said on Feb. 19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.