Hong Kong – The fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak has upended the dream holidays for hundreds of sea-faring passengers.
The 2,257 passengers and crew overseas MS Westerdam heaved a sigh of aid once they lastly noticed land from their cabin home windows and set afoot in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Their cruise liner had been marooned for days after 5 international locations denied it entry fearing that anyone within the ship was contaminated.
On Friday, the passengers had been welcomed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who handed out flowers to welcome them.
Though nobody has proven any signs of the coronavirus, the Westerdam’s crew and passengers went by a well being screening on the port.
The scramble in Tokyo to shut its ports got here on the heels of a surge in confirmed circumstances within the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which is at the moment below quarantine and docked in Yokohama.
On Thursday, Japan’s well being officers confirmed 218 passengers and crew, in addition to one quarantine officer, have been contaminated making it the biggest cluster of infections exterior China, the supply of the COVID19 outbreak.
Floating petri dish
Much just like the virus, the fear that any cruise ship is usually a floating petri dish has additionally been spreading. However, well being specialists mentioned ships are literally safer than plane.
“Cruise ships are much less a risk than for example planes for global spread of a virus,” mentioned Dr Marc-Alain Widdowson, director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, informed Al Jazeera. “This is because ships are usually at sea for several days, so this gives time for symptoms to show in people incubating the disease.”
But then the size of a sea voyage and contained nature of a ship do current different dangers.
“If someone does fall sick, it is possible to confine them to cabins, but the ship facilities are often not equipped to deal with many severe illness at a time. If someone is very sick on the sea, it is difficult to evacuate them,” Widdowson added. “Therefore, a cruise ship is a place for viruses and other microbes to rapidly spread.”
Originally scheduled for a two-week turnaround in Yokohama on February 15 – in lieu of a return to Shanghai, the Westerdam, operated by Holland American Lines, final docked in Hong Kong on February 1, receiving 800 extra passengers.
After that, the Dutch-flagged luxurious liner was barred from docking in Manila, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, and, regardless of a request by US State Department, the American territory of Guam. Malaysia and Thailand additionally turned away the Westerdam.
“@HALcruises made a giant mistake taking us into Hong Kong given the state of affairs,” passenger Stephen Hansen, of Vancouver, Canada, posted on social media. But Hanson was glad by the operator’s dealing with of the marine mishap and the promise of full refund.
“It all relies upon upon what threat and disaster administration plan the cruise line had in place, and what standards had been used to justify the choice to tackle extra passengers,” mentioned John Ap, a tourism administration professor at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies.
Unlike Hansen, passengers of one other cruise had been much less fortunate with getting their a refund. Cruise liner Norwegian Jade, which was scheduled to board in Hong Kong, switched port to Singapore.
The operator Norwegian Cruise Line refused to supply any refund to prospects who cancelled, in response to US media reviews.
Since February 6, Hong Kong authorities officers have ordered closed each of the town’s cruise terminals, after World Dream cruise ship docked with nearly 4,000 passengers and crew requiring quarantine.
An emergency response kicked into excessive gear after the ship’s operator revealed that after dropping off eight mainland Chinese passengers later discovered to be contaminated, the ship made 4 extra journeys between Hong Kong and Vietnam.
In response to the outbreak, Cruise Lines International Association whose member strains make up greater than 90 p.c of ocean-going cruise capability worldwide, has issued new insurance policies requiring pre-boarding screening. It has additionally barred anybody who has travelled from or transited through China, together with Hong Kong and Macau, two weeks earlier than departure or has been in shut contact with anybody visiting the aforementioned locations.
But even lengthy after disembarking, cruise passengers should still trigger a well being scare.
Last Saturday, SuperStar Aquarius was allowed again berthing at its home port of Keelung near Taipei. The ship was exempted from Taiwan’s ban as 90 p.c of the 1,750 passengers are from the island.
Even although no contaminated circumstances had been discovered, the passengers have been topic to self-quarantining for 14 days. But one wayward passenger flouted the order and took a dip in a health membership pool the day after. The membership has voluntarily closed its doorways to disinfect its amenities.
The present rush to shut ports in Asia follows a ban on all cruise ships coming into South Pacific Islands which has been in place since late January and a number of other Caribbean ports turned away German cruise ship AIDA Perla as a result of some passengers had been displaying indicators of the coronavirus.
All this adopted an preliminary false alarm on January 30, when nearly 6,000 passengers and crew members had been saved on board the Costa Smeralda cruise ship in Italy, whereas officers investigated a possible coronavirus case of a 54-year-old Chinese passenger who confirmed flu-like signs.
The exams turned out to be detrimental.