Australian passengers on Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess met with violent protests yesterday over fears of coronavirus when the ship arrived at Reunion Island.
More than 2,000 passengers on the Sun Princess were met with local protesters from the island who threw rocks and yelled abuse as they arrived at Réunion Island, a French territory off the coast of Africa on Sunday morning, a New Zealand guest Rod Pascoe told the New Zealand Herald.
A group of about 30 protesters barred the main port gates to demand that passengers coming on shore be made to take a temperature test, according to local paper Imaz Press Réunion.
About fifty passengers were reportedly affected before the police intervened to clear the passage. Several bottles and stones were thrown at police, who responded with tear gas. The clashes lasted until the early afternoon and one protester was arrested, Imaz Press Réunion reported.
Despite police being present, Captain Diego Perra ordered the passengers back aboard the ship to escape the danger.
“Some passengers were very distressed and others absolutely steaming, fuming when they got back,” said Mr Pascoe, who had been waiting for a bus when the violence erupted.
“People feared for their safety.”
More than 300 other passengers had already left by taxi or bus to various excursions on the island before the protesters arrived.
Only the main gates were affected so passengers managed to make it on to the island through another gate, Mr Pascoe said. When he visited the markets most locals did not seem concerned about the virus.
“Of course we are not against the arrival of tourists to Reunion, they are necessary for the development of our economy. We just want to be sure that there is no risk of the spread of coronavirus” Yannis Latchimy who came to demonstrate with a group of friends told Imaz Press Réunion.
It was also reported that local concern and discontent began when the Costa Mediterranean arrived in Reunion last Wednesday on February 26. About twenty people also gathered in front of the quay to protest against the disembarkation of travellers that day.
Local authorities on Reunion told the ship passengers’ safety could not be guaranteed, The captain planned to head for their next stop, the Republic of Mauritius instead of staying overnight at Réunion Island.
But overnight the Mauritius government had also withdrawn permission for the ship to visit.
The Sun Princess, which is on a 55-day ‘Indian Ocean & South Africa Odyssey’ sailing departing Adelaide on January 20, had also been refused entry to another country earlier.
The ship was refused entry to Madagascar on the grounds that 14 days had not passed from its previous stopover in Thailand on February 1.
Princess Cruises said in a statement: “A disruption on Reunion Island was dealt with by local authorities. There was limited impact for guests from Sun Princess who took the disruption in their stride.”
The ship is now sailing back to local waters, arriving in Fremantle on March 10 and concluding the journey in Adelaide on March 15.