The cruise ship AIDAperla was denied access to berth at St John’s Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday (Feb 4) amid coronavirus fears. It is the third time within days that the ship is being prevented from docking at a Caribbean port.
Health authorities in Antigua and Barbuda said they had not received the information requested from the ship’s crew, after reviewing the details of the initial Maritime Health Declaration that was submitted.
A statement from the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Environment said, “It was discovered that it was insufficient to make a proper assessment of the health situation on the vessel.
“As a result, additional crucial information was requested but not provided in a timely manner. Consequently, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment was not able to support a decision to allow the ship to berth and recommended the cancellation of its call at the St John’s Harbour,” the statement said.
St Lucia on Saturday denied access to the AIDAperla with Dominica doing likewise afterwards. Both St Lucia and Dominica said that passengers on the 3,300-capacity vessel were showing signs of respiratory tract infection.
“I think 23 persons, had some kind of a virus, but they were isolated on the ship.”— St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves
Early symptoms of the coronavirus also include respiratory tract infection. The new strain of the coronavirus was discovered in December in the city of Wuhan in China. It has killed more than 400 people with more than 20,000, in more than 25 countries being infected.
Meanwhile, the ship docked in St Vincent and the Grenadines, with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in a radio interview, defending the decision.
Gonsalves said, “we have to act sensibly with the protocols and don’t panic. I think 23 persons, had some kind of a virus, but they were isolated on the ship. They were crew members and some passengers.
“The Port Authority simply contacted, as we will do always, the public health, the chief medical officer, medical officer of health, all the entities involved and dealt with that problem so that you allow those who wanted to come off (and) could come off but those who had to be isolated were isolated on the ship,” Gonsalves said.