A cruise ship from the Miami-based cruise line MSC Cruises has been denied entry to the Cayman Islands and Jamaica amid fears of the novel coronavirus.
The MSC Meraviglia from was blocked from entering the port in Ochos Rios, Jamaica on Tuesday, health officials said. The ship, carrying more than 4,500 passengers and over 1,600 crew members on a 14-day cruise of the Caribbean, was denied entry after health officials found that one crew member, reporting flu-like symptoms, had been placed in isolation.
“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,” read a statement from Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness.
After being blocked from docking in Jamaica, the ship was also denied a scheduled entry on Wednesday in Grand Cayman out of “an abundance of caution,” from the Cayman Islands’ health officials.
“In order to provide protection to the health and safety of the residents of the Cayman Islands, the Government denied permission for the cruise ship to call on Grand Cayman as previously scheduled,” health minister Dwayne Seymour said in a statement.
MSC Cruises criticized the decisions by both countries in a statement to TIME, saying authorities in Jamaica and Grand Cayman did not properly review medical records provided by the cruise line. “In both instances, the ship was effectively turned away simply based on fears,” the statement read.
According to MSC Cruises, the ship’s medical records showed one case of influenza, which affected a crew member who had traveled to Miami from Manila, Philippines via Istanbul. The crew member tested positive for Type A influenza after visiting the ship’s medical center while already aboard. MSC Cruises said it is standard practice to report any illnesses on board to relevant local health authorities. According to the cruise line, the crew member embarked on the cruise after passing a mandatory health screening given to all passengers on the ship.
“He has no other symptoms,” MSC Cruises said.
The ship is now en route to its next port of call in Cozumel, Mexico, where it is expected to dock on Wednesday night. The ship’s command and MSC Cruises management are in touch with local health authorities “to ensure that their decision will be based on a factual review of the ship’s medical records,” according to the statement. No coronavirus cases have been reported or confirmed in Mexico.
A passenger aboard MSC Meraviglia, who asked not to be identified, told TIME that some people on the ship seem worried, but aren’t yet panicked. Passengers are trying to get more information about future stops and are continuing to gather in the ship’s common areas.
“Life is normal at the pool side,” the passenger said. “We have not been asked to stay in the rooms.”
In a note to passengers shared with TIME, the ship’s captain apologized for the voyage’s itinerary changes and any related “inconvenience,.” The note added that MSC would be providing refunds for missed excursions in Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman, along with a $200 on board credit per stateroom.
MSC Meraviglia is the latest cruise ship to get caught up in fears over the spread of the coronavirus, which has quickly surged in case numbers outside of mainland China, where the viral infection originated. Following rumors that a passenger on Holland America Line’s Westerdam cruise ship had coronavirus, the ship was denied entry at five different ports earlier in February, before passengers were allowed to disembark in Cambodia.
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Contributor: Mahita Gajanan