Coronavirus: Cruise ships to deny boarding to anyone who has recently been in China

As coronavirus has continued to spread globally, cruise lines have begun to skip port calls, step up screening measures, cancel sailings and even quarantined an entire ship for what turned out to be a case of the flu.

On Thursday, the trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)  pledged that its members will deny boarding to anyone who has traveled through mainland China in the past two weeks, in addition to other precautions.

The move came just hours after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global health emergency and the U.S. State Department raised its alert to Level 4 (the highest level) with a clear message: Do not travel to China. 

“CLIA Members have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, whether guest or crew, who has traveled from or through mainland China within the previous 14 days,” CLIA said in a statement provided by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director of strategic communications.

That means that no crew members – or ticketed guests, for that matter – will be allowed to board a cruise ship if they are in or have been in mainland China over the two weeks prior to embarkation. 

“CLIA and its member lines maintain close contact with health professionals and regulators around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO), and are continually assessing and modifying policies and procedures as developments emerge,” Thursday’s statement continued. “This includes the modification of itineraries, where needed, in light of evolving circumstances, as well as health, travel and contact screening where appropriate, for guests and crew who have recently traveled from or through the affected area consistent with prevailing guidance from global health authorities.”

A Guardia di Finanza boat patrol around the Costa Smeralda cruise ship docked in the Civitavecchia port 70km north of Rome on Jan. 30. More than 6,000 tourists were under lockdown aboard the cruise ship after two Chinese passengers were isolated over fears they could be carrying the coronavirus. Samples from the two passengers were sent for testing after three doctors and a nurse boarded the Costa Crociere ship in the port of Civitavecchia to tend to a woman running a fever, the local health authorities said. She was later diagnosed with the flu.

The screening protocols that CLIA is using allow for case-by-case decisions as to whether a crew member or guest will be allowed or denied to board.

All member companies’ ships will comply with CLIA’s motion. For perspective, CLIA, which is the largest trade organization in the cruise industry, has 270 member ships, according to Brian Salerno, senior vice president of maritime policy at CLIA, who estimated there are more than 300 cruise ships operating around the globe.

“Oceangoing cruise ships within the CLIA fleet represent about 95% of global capacity,” Golin-Blaugrund told USA TODAY.

Members include major lines such as Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises and others.

As of Friday, the deadly virus had reached at least 20 countries around the world and killed more than 200 people. Nearly 10,000 people worldwide have contracted coronavirus with 213 dead in China since it broke out in the city of Wuhan. 

And there had not been any confirmed cases of coronavirus onboard a cruise ship as of  Friday afternoon, Golin-Blaugrund said.

The U.S. also has its first case of human-to-human transmission. On Thursday, the Chicago Department of Public Health confirmed that the husband of a Chicago woman who returned from Wuhan earlier this month has become symptomatic despite not traveling there with her.

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