Caribbean shippers expect increase in cruise passenger visitors despite Ebola threat

Ruby-Princess-in-St-Lucia-740ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Thursday October 30, 2014, CMC – A senior official of the Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA) says he is confident despite the fears being generated by the Ebola virus, there will be an increase in cruise ship passengers to the region.

“It’s important that all of us, especially in the cruise sector as well, to be mindful of the potential and the harmful danger of the Ebola. But the cruise lines have had some experience in terms of these types of viruses,” chairman of the CSA cruise committee, Nathan Dundas, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

The shipping industry executive said when the cruise sector was confronted with the Norwalk and later N1N1 viruses in the past, industry stakeholders and medical officials gathered to devise a strategy for prevention and containment.

Dundas said the talks were also attended by officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“They are doing something similar again with regards to Ebola. They recognise the danger, they recognise the potential that it has and its consequences and they’ve actually put out some information…” Dundas said.

In an effort to curb the spread of the disease and minimise exposure to passengers, cruise ships have suspended calls to West African nations that have been affected. Instead, cruise liners are focusing on preventative measures.

“Before any cruise passenger goes onboard right now, before a booking is made there is a screening process already taking place with respect to ensuring that no such individuals who actually have visited those countries (can board) and if they show any signs or symptoms, they are told that they are not going to be allowed on the cruise,” he said.

“If it so happens that they breach that arrangement there’s also a quarantine arrangement onboard each of those cruise ships where those cruise ship passengers will be quarantined,” he added.

Dundas is also concerned that not enough is being done to educate people of the threat and spread of the Ebola virus and this has further fuelled fears. He called for a stepped-up public education campaign to sensitize people on the spread of the disease.

“I see that as very important. In fact, the discussions have already started to take place, but among stake holders,” Dundas said. He explained that in Antigua and Barbuda, a task force has been formed to sensitize the public on the dangers of the Ebola virus.

“What hasn’t happened yet is going to the public more to explain from our side of things and the ministry of health is doing it from their end… but I think more needs to be done in terms of informing the public of what is being done and ensuring that they understand there are measures being put in place to ensure their safety,” he said.

To date, more than 10,000 people have been affected by the disease with the West African states of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia hardest hit. The disease is spread through contact with bodily fluids from affected people. Nearly half of those affected have died.

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