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Two cruise passengers test negative for coronavirus - but passengers not to disembark until tomorrow

Around 1,140 people who had been due to disembark at the Civitavecchia port earlier today, but will have to stay onboard the ship.

Image: Gig/Ropi/Zuma Press/PA Images

Updated Jan 30th 2020, 9:00 PM

ITALY’S HEALTH MINISTRY said that two Chinese cruise ship passengers had tested negative for the coronavirus – but passengers will not disembark until the morning at the earliest, it’s understood.

An announcement was made on board the cruise ship where passengers were told that they would stay on board the ship overnight, with an update to be given in the morning.  

Costa Cruises has offered food free of charge for those on board, and have offered to pay for the hotels for the 1,140 people who had been due to disembark at the Civitavecchia port earlier today. Around 1,000 passengers were due to board.

More than 6,000 tourists have been under lockdown aboard a cruise ship at an Italian port 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.

Costa Crociere confirmed the ship, carrying some 7,000 people in total including the crew, was in lockdown.

It came as China reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus deaths and the disease was deemed a global health emergency, with at least 15 countries confirming infections.

Costa said a 54-year old woman from Macau had been “placed in solitary confinement in the on-board hospital last night with her travel companion”, and the crew was following instructions from the health ministry.

- Earlier reporting -

china-hubei-wuhan-zall-foundation-donation-cn Staff members unload protective suits from a cargo plane at Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Two Irish passengers, from Cork and Tipperary, are on board the ferry.

“A Chinese woman got on the ship last week, and started showing signs of a temperature,” one of those Irish passengers, Gerard Ryan told TheJournal.ie.

“Doctors came on board to do tests, and they’ve taken samples from her, but no one is allowed to get off.” 

An announcement is due to take place on board the ferry later today, he said. 

They don’t know when they’ll be allowed off the ship themselves – they were due to disembark on Monday. “We only boarded three days ago.”

Some passengers are worried they won’t get to go home, he said.

But they aren’t too worried about an outbreak of the coronavirus themselves: “I told my brother to leave the television off, it’ll only worry my mother.”

The Costa Smeralda, the company’s flagship and the fifth-largest cruise ship in the world, “came from Palma de Mallorca and is currently engaged in one-week cruises in the western Mediterranean,” it said.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government was “not worried, but vigilant and cautious”.

The couple flew in to Milan from Hong Kong on 25 January, before getting on the cruise at Savona in northern Italy, according to Italian media reports.

“The couple’s cabin has been isolated and they are in with the doctors,” another unnamed passenger was quoted as telling ANSA news agency.

We’re a bit worried of course. No-one is getting on or off the ship apart from the doctors. This holiday risks ending in a nightmare.

In isolation

The ship then stopped off in Marseilles and Barcelona, as well as Palma de Mallorca, according to an itinerary on its website.

It had been due to sail for La Spezia in north Italy late today, but would be detained in the Civitavecchia port near Rome “until we have an update on the health tests,” said port captain Vincenzo Leone.

There are some 750 other Chinese passengers on board, who all appear to be in good health, media reports said.

The World Health Organization, which initially downplayed a disease that has now killed 170 in China, was preparing to meet today to decide whether to declare it a global emergency.

Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Italian national health institute, said that all suspected cases in Italy so far had turned out to be false alarms, but the health service was “ready should any cases of infection emerge”.

Beijing has taken extraordinary steps to arrest the spread of the virus, including effectively quarantining more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The pathogen is believed to have emerged in a market that sold wild game, and spread by a Lunar New Year holiday season in which hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically or abroad.

- © AFP 2020. With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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