The fear of a potential outbreak of coronavirus on one of the world’s largest cruise ships has turned out to be a false alarm.
Costa Cruises confirmed that Italian health officials diagnosed a passenger onboard the 6,000-passenger Costa Smeralda with the “common flu”.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that two members from the same family in England have the first cases of coronavirus in the UK.
Passengers on the Costa ship had been placed in quarantine as a precaution over a suspected case of the deadly virus in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.
At least 66 British passengers were reported to be on board the vessel at the time.
A 54-year-old woman from Macau held in isolation on the ship with her husband had reportedly flown from Hong Kong to join the Mediterranean cruise.
A Costa Cruises spokesperson said: “Thanks to the protocols that are applied on board the fleet, Wednesday night our medical team promptly identified a suspected fever case in a 54-year-old woman, just a few hours before the ship’s arrival in Civitavecchia.
“As soon as the case was discovered, the required precautionary procedures were immediately taken. The relevant authorities were informed and, upon arrival of the ship in the port of Civitavecchia, they carried out all the required checks.
“While we appreciate the inconvenience caused, the procedures in force and our co-operation with the health authorities were effective in managing the situation and intended to ensure maximum safety for our guests, crew and the community as a whole.”
The ship will remain docked at Civitavecchia until today and miss the port of La Spezia before returning to its homeport of Savona.
MSC Magnifica in Queensferry, Scotland, photo credit Dave Jones
The scare came as rival line MSC Cruises announced a new series of strict “precautionary measures” across its fleet due to the coronavirus outbreak in China which has caused 213 deaths in the country and triggered a World Heath Organisation global health emergency.
Guests from all nationalities are required to fill out a pre-embarkation questionnaire to ensure no-one boards their ship who has travelled from mainland China or visited mainland China in the past 30 days. Anyone who has travelled from mainland China or visited mainland China in the past 30 days will be denied access to the ship;
Mandatory non-touch thermal scans conducted for all guests and crew prior to embarkation for every cruise operated by the company anywhere in the world, and persons with signs or symptoms of illness such as fever or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty breathing will be denied embarkation;
Elevated deep-sanitation on every ship in the line’s entire fleet;
Guests who may have fever symptoms will be isolated in their cabin and the same measure applies for their close contacts, including guests staying in the same cabin and family members, as well as any crew member who may have served these guests.
A spokesman said: “While there are no cases of coronavirus on board any of MSC Cruises’ ships these measures are additional steps to secure the health and well-being of all guests and crew.”
“These measures follow previous actions that were taken last week,” the spokesman added.
“Guests and crew who travelled last week from mainland China were already screened for symptoms upon embarkation and were requested to report any symptoms of illness to the onboard medical centre.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, MSC Cruises has been closely monitoring the public health and safety situation in each of the regions its ships sail.
“The company has been consulting with international and local health authorities to follow their advice and recommendations.”
The move came after the line cancelled the next three MSC Splendida sailings from Shanghai.
The ship’s four and five-night sailings from Shanghai to Japan on February 1, 5 and 9 will not operate.
MSC Splendida, deployed in Asia for the winter, will reposition to Singapore to start a 27-night repositioning voyage to the Middle East and Europe on February 14.
The line’s chief executive Gianni Onorato said: “The decision to reposition the ship from Shanghai to Singapore has been taken in the best interests of the safety and wellbeing for our passengers and crew, as was the decision to cancel our next three scheduled sailings from China.
“Many major airlines have either cancelled or reduced their flight frequency to China and the grand voyage, a maritime tradition whereby a ship moves from one part of the world to another for a new sailing season, was entirely booked with guests flying from abroad to enjoy the experience of a unique itinerary.
“In light of Singapore becoming a new embarkation port we have had to cancel calls to Naha, Japan and Hong Kong but it has also created an opportunity to update and enrich the grand voyage’s itinerary with four additional new ports; Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, plus Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to create a new, one-of-a-kind memorable cruise.”