Coronavirus Prompts Royal Caribbean to Ban Chinese, Hong Kong, and Macau Passport Holders
Royal Caribbean on Friday banned anyone holding passports from China, Hong Kong, or Macau from its ships amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak.
The new virus infected 61 people on a Princess Cruises ship docked at Yokohama near Tokyo, Japan, officials there said on Friday. Four people on a Royal Caribbean ship docked in New Jersey were taken to a hospital for evaluation after showing signs of the virus on Friday.
The new ban on passport holders applies even if the holders haven’t been to their home regions in a while, Royal Caribbean said in a statement.
Additionally, anyone—regardless of nationality—who has traveled to China, Hong Kong, or Macau less than 15 days before trying to board a Royal Caribbean ship will be barred from entry. And any guest or crew member that has been in contact, or within six feet, of someone that has traveled from, to, or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau less than 15 days ago will also be barred from boarding.
Passengers who aren’t sure if they’ve been in contact with such people will be required to undergo a specialized health screening, as well any passengers who report feeling unwell or show flu-like symptoms.
Countries across the world as well as airlines and other countries have taken action amid the coronavirus outbreak, restricting travel, cutting flights, and implementing testing at airports, train stations, and borders.
Royal Caribbean’s announcement came as Japan refused to allow a Carnival ship from calling at its ports even though there were no confirmed cases on board.
The Westerdam cruise ship is “currently in a holding pattern off the coast of Japan, southeast of Okinawa, while we are working to finalize a new port of disembarkation,” said Holland America, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., in a statement on Thursday.
Cruise ships represent a unique challenge because of how clustered everyone is on board, said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, during a Friday morning press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“A cruise ship is a very particular environment in which you can have higher levels of transmission even with a virus that isn’t very efficient with transmission,” he said. “That’s not to say this virus won’t gain more efficiency or spread more.”
Large cruise ship outbreaks aren’t unheard of, he said, citing the norovirus outbreaks that have occurred on ships in recent years.
“These aren’t particularly unusual,” he said. “It is difficult for people who caught up in that situation, because they are confined. It’s quite scary. It’s very, very scary to be in that situation.”
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