KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday February 26, 2020 – As the Caribbean seeks to keep the deadly new Coronavirus (COVID-19) at bay, a cruise ship carrying more than 4,500 passengers was denied entry to Jamaica yesterday and the Cayman Islands today, after it was discovered that a crew member had flu symptoms.
The MSC Meraviglia, carrying over 4,500 passengers and more than 1,600 crew members on a Caribbean cruise, was first denied entry to the port in Ocho Rios when it arrived at 8:30 a.m. yesterday.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness said that during an inspection, port health officials learned that the sick crew member was in insolation on the vessel.
“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 Ministry said in a brief statement.
The ship was scheduled to dock in Grand Cayman today, but Cayman Islands’ health officials said it was denied entry out of an abundance of caution.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said in a statement: “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.”
Miami-based MSC Cruises criticized both countries for their decision to turn away the vessel.
In a statement to the New York Post today, it said it was “extremely disappointed that Jamaican authorities yesterday delayed a decision for many hours to give our ship the necessary clearance to disembark guests, despite us having provided detailed medical records to the local health and national authorities ahead of its arrival as per normal protocol”.
“Similarly, the decision taken overnight by the Grand Cayman authorities to refuse disembarkation at Georgetown was made without even reviewing the ship’s medical records, which show one single case of common seasonal flu (type A influenza) affecting one crew member with a travel history clearly showing no passages through territories either affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or subject to any international health restrictions,” it added.
It had explained in an earlier statement that the member had embarked at the beginning of the cruise in Miami, after passing the mandatory health screening that all guests and crew members receive before joining the cruise, a precautionary measure that has been implemented across its entire fleet.
“MSC Cruises denies embarkation to anyone — crew and guest alike — who has travelled to, from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau, as well as to people who during the past 14 days have travelled to, from or through any of the municipalities that are subject to quarantine in central northern Italy,” it stressed.
“In addition to this, all MSC Cruises ships also conduct individual pre-boarding screening by thermal cameras to identify guests or crew members with signs or symptoms of illness such as fever or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty breathing. This will also result in denied embarkation.”
To compensate passengers, MSC Cruises said it would give refunds for missed excursions in Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman, and a US$200 on board credit per stateroom.
The MSC Meraviglia’s next port of call is Cozumel, Mexico, where it is expected to dock tonight.