In a development that is sure to put even more strain on the cruise industry, a second cruise ship has been refused entry at several ports amid fears that a passenger onboard might have the novel coronavirus—the first such incident in the Caribbean.
The Cayman Islands confirmed that it didn’t allow the MSC Meraviglia to dock in Georgetown on Wednesday after ship officials announced someone on board had influenza-like symptoms. The ship had left Miami to Jamaica, which also denied the ship to port.
“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 for the Cayman Islands, said in a statement to the New York Times on Wednesday.
The firm, in a statement, strongly denied that anyone on board was diagnosed with COVID-19, which has sickened tens of thousands of people in China and is spreading in several other countries—with South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan seeing significant daily increases. The ship is carrying more than 4,500 passengers and crew on a 14-day cruise in the Caribbean.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness said it was told that a crew member reported influenza-like symptoms and subsequently blocked the ship from entry.
MSC told Time magazine that officials in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica made their decisions out of unfounded fears, while both countries didn’t properly review the ship’s medical records. According to the firm, a crew member from the Philippines tested positive for Type A influenza after being evaluated by the ship’s medical center while onboard, and MSC said it’s a standard practice to report illnesses to local health officials.
But Jamaican officials said they had no choice but to block the ship from entering. “The crew member had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains with a travel history to a country of interest relating to the COVID-19,” the National Ministry of Health in Kingston said in a statement to the NY Times.
Earlier this month, Holland America’s MS Westerdam ship was denied entry by five countries over fears that someone had COVID-19—the disease the coronavirus causes—including in Japan, Taiwan, Guam, Thailand, and Vietnam before Cambodian officials allowed it to dock. After disembarking in Cambodia, a passenger tested positive for the new virus, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was a false positive, saying the person doesn’t have the virus, it was reported.
The cruise industry is reeling after the Westerdam incident as well as the quarantine of the Diamond Princess, which is being held off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. Hundreds of passengers have caught COVID-19 on board the ship, prompting criticism of Japan’s response.
As for what’s next, the MSC Meraviglia is heading to Cozumel, Mexico, the next scheduled port of call, according to the company’s statement. The ship’s command and MSC’s management said they are in contact with local health officials to make sure they will review medical records.