Coronavirus: US officials release thousands from cruise ship without screening after passenger tests positive

'If we have it, it’s going to spread throughout the country'

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 16 March 2020 17:06
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Passengers leave Grand Princess cruise ship after coronavirus outbreak

US health officials released thousands of passengers from a cruise ship without any medical screenings in Miami, Florida during the weekend despite a passenger who had previously travelled on the ship testing positive for coronavirus.

The unidentified passenger tested positive for the deadly virus after an eight-day trip through the Caribbean on the MSC Meraviglia, officials for the cruise liner confirmed on Sunday.

The officials said the passenger disembarked on 8 March, with over a hundred passengers and crew members still aboard the vessel.

Four days later, thousands of new passengers boarded the ship, before Canada’s Public Health Agency could inform MSC Cruises about the former passenger.

But health officials allowed the passengers to disembark in Florida, the Miami Herald reported, without ever testing any of the 3,877 people on the ship. The passengers reportedly left the Port of Miami on Sunday, as many headed to direct flights at the nearby Miami International Airport.

It was not immediately clear if any of those passengers exhibited symptoms associated with Covid-19. The virus, believed to have originated in a market in Wuhan, China, typically features symptoms similar to that of the common flu, including respiratory issues, a runny nose, fever and a sore throat.

In severe cases, people infected with the virus may develop pneumonia or extreme breathing difficulties that can prove fatal.

Across the country, states have confirmed at least 3,500 cases as the death toll rose to at least 69 on Monday. Experts indicated the true number of nationwide cases was likely much higher, as the country has had difficulty in getting people tested in recent weeks.

Cruise ships have seen massive outbreaks of the new coronavirus, with several of those ships being forced to idle off coastline for days on end as the illness spread to numerous passengers on board. A previous cruise liner in California was only allowed to disembark after US health officials tested dozens of people on board, with 21 of them testing positive for coronavirus.

One passenger told the Miami Herald they received a letter at their home informing them about the coronavirus case, asking to remain anonymous.

“If we have it, it’s going to spread throughout the country,” they said, reportedly speaking to the newspaper from South Carolina.

They added about the lack of testing: “When I say there was no check, there was none whatsoever. I expected us to have some kind of a screening. They didn’t do a single thing. We walked straight off the ship. There wasn’t any check on anyone for anything.”

MSC officials also told the news outlet that nobody had symptoms on the ship and that they had “worked closely” with health officials in Canada and the US.

“MSC Meraviglia received clearance after health authorities reviewed all the necessary documentation regarding the health of passengers and crew on board today and throughout the cruise”, the cruise company said in a statement.

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