A cruise ship has been turned away from the Dominican Republic after eight passengers – including Britons and Americans – fell sick on board.
The Dominican health authority said cruise liner MS Braemar was turned away after the captain reported four Filipinos, two Britons and two Americans had symptoms including fever, cough, or breathing difficulties.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which owns the Braemar, insisted that none of the passengers’ symptoms were consistent with coronavirus and that all of those who had fallen sick are now feeling well.
Nevertheless, Dominican authorities denied permission for any of the 1,128 passengers and 384 crew to disembark.
Cruise ship MS Braemar (file), carrying 1,500 people, is being held off the coast of the Dominican Republic after eight people reported having flu-like symptoms
Four Filipinos, two Americans and two Britons reported coughing, sneezing and respiratory distress – but the ship’s owners insisted it was not due to coronavirus (file)
It comes just days after another cruise ship – the MSC Meraviglia – was blocked from docking in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands after someone fell sick on board, despite testing negative for coronavirus.
The cruise industry has been hit hard by coronavirus – starting when the MS Westerdam was turned away from five ports in Asia earlier this month over coronavirus fears, despite having no cases on board at the time.
The Diamond Princess also got held off the coast of Yokohama in Japan after a confirmed case on board, as medics tried to halt the outbreak by confining people to their cabins.
Ultimately their efforts failed and led to almost 700 people falling sick and six people, including one Briton, dying.
A spokesman for Fred Olsen said the ship has now left port at La Romana and is in talks with other islands about where passengers can disembark.
Online tracking data shows the vessel’s current destination as Philipsburg in Sint Maarten.
‘We are in discussions with the relevant authorities on nearby Caribbean islands, as well as a number of airlines, to enable our guests to disembark and secure onward travel for them to return home, and are awaiting advice on the next steps,’ a statement on the company’s website said.
‘All guests who were due to join Braemar on the next cruise have been provided with hotel accommodation in the Dominican Republic, and a team from Fred. Olsen’s UK Head Office has been sent to the island to assist these guests while we secure a new departure date for their cruise.
It comes after the MSC Meraviglia was turned away from two ports in the Jamaica and the Cayman Islands after a crew member fell sick
The Meraviglia was eventually allowed to dock in Cozumel, Mexico (pictured), on Friday after the crew member and another passenger tested negative for coronavirus
‘We are keeping all guests, both on board and ashore, fully informed at all times.
‘We believe that the refusal for us to commence debarkation operations in the Port of La Romana was the result of a very small number of influenza-like cases on board.
‘Our medical team has confirmed that they are all feeling better.
‘No guests or crew are, or have been, displaying symptoms that are considered to be consistent with those of coronavirus.’
The cruise line’s website shows the ship was due to dock in the Dominican Republic to drop off a load of passengers after a 14-day voyage.
It would then pick up another load and set off on a new cruise on Thursday night.
The MSC Meraviglia did eventually dock at Mexico’s Caribbean island of Cozumel on Thursday and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said passengers would be allowed to disembark,
Mr Lopez Obrador said Mexico had to act with ‘humanity’ after the ship was refused entry at ports in Grand Cayman and Jamaica.
The cruise line had expressed frustration with the rejections, which came after it reported one crew member from the Philippines was sick with common seasonal flu. It said no passengers had shown evidence of the covid-19 virus.
‘The ship is being allowed to dock and the passengers, those who are aboard the cruise ship can disembark,’ Mr Lopez Obrador said, adding that health inspections will be carried out.
It also comes after a coronavirus outbreak on board the Diamond Princess ship (pictured) sickened almost 700 amid a failed attempt to confine people to their cabins
Six people – including a British man – have died after catching coronavirus on board the vessel, before being evacuated (file image)
‘We cannot act with discrimination,’ he said. ‘Imagine if a ship arrived and it wasn’t even allowed to dock, and they were told, ‘Keep going on your way, see where you can dock.’ That is inhuman.’
He added: ‘We cannot close our ports, nor can we close our airports.’
‘Imagine the desperation and everything it implies, almost 5,000 people on a ship and they cannot get off,’ he said. ‘Why such backward attitudes?’
The case of the Meraviglia illustrated the crisis of nerves over the virus. Mexico has no confirmed cases and MSC Cruises said the crew member had only common seasonal flu, had been placed in isolation and had ‘nearly recovered’.
Local media showed a small knot of Cozumel residents near the cruise ship dock demanding that passengers not be allowed to disembark, citing fears about potential contagion or effects on the tourism-dependent economy.
Just minutes after Mr Lopez Obrador spoke on Thursday, the governor of the Quintana Roo state, where Cozumel is located, confirmed the ship had docked, but said ‘no authorisation has been given’ yet for passengers to disembark.
Governor Carlos Joaquin wrote that health inspections would have to be carried out first.