Sydney Harbour was convulsed with a coronavirus scare this morning, underscoring how skittish the world has become about the sickness.
Australia’s reputation as a virus free cruise port is intact. A critical reason why we remain a successful cruise destination.
During Norwegian Jewel’s sailing from Auckland to Sydney, according to the cruise line, “a few guests on board experienced a stomach-related illness”.
Norwegian immediately implemented “stringent sanitation procedures”, and when the Jewel docked in Sydney, “a thorough inspection and rigorous cleaning and disinfection of the ship and terminal” took place.
But in a world where social media rules, some organisations were quick to draw the conclusion that the virus had arrived on our shores.
“Cruise ship Norwegian Jewel is placed into lockdown in Sydney Harbour as a passenger is tested for the deadly coronavirus after falling ill”, said the Daily Mail‘s website. The Australian echoed similar sentiments.
NSW Health officials, who have monitored 16,000 similar incidents at Sydney Airport, attended the Jewel.
The department told Cruise Passenger this morning: “Passengers on a cruise ship arriving into Sydney this morning were assessed. None had been in China in the previous 14 days and there was no outbreak of any disease on board.
“There were three routine medical transfers, none related to respiratory illness. One person has been tested for respiratory illness on board with results expected this afternoon. As is routine in these circumstances, testing was done as a precaution as there is no indication that the person is at particular risk of CoVID-19, and at this point there is no concern for other passengers or people in and around Circular Quay.”
Norwegian Cruise Line said: “There are various false inflammatory media reports regarding the ship. There is absolutely no truth to those stories. We have no guests with any respiratory related illness on board. The vessel remains in operation, and all guests onboard are in good health.”
The Jewel is scheduled to depart for a 14-day cruise to Australia and New Zealand later today.
Earlier in the week, the Holland America Westerdam was turned away from five countries – simply because of a social media post suggesting someone on board had symptoms of the virus. They didn’t – but that didn’t stop each nation from refusing the ship port facilities.
For the record: according to Australian Department of Health, Australia has had 15 cases, and six have recovered. Globally, there have been 60,390 cases and 1,320 deaths – almost all in China.
Cruise Lines International Association Australia MD Joel Katz yesterday issued a strong statement maintaining “Virus claims have been exaggerated”.
Of course, he acknowledges, the Diamond Princess is a “difficult situation”.
But he points out: “It is important to remember there is no confirmed cases on any other cruise ship worldwide.
“The vast majority of more than 270 cruise ships globally are continuing to sail unaffected, including within our own region.”
He concludes: “There are many exaggerated claims around cruise ships, but the reality is the cruise industry is one of the most well-equipped and experienced when it comes to managing and monitoring health conditions of passengers and crew.”
One of the most frequently asked questions on our social media and web sites among is: Should I cancel my cruise?”
The answer, according to CLIA, is: Certainly not. And the evidence is right behind them.
“I think there’s extremely low risk of getting novel coronavirus on a cruise ship,” Dr. John Lynch, who has specialties in infectious disease and travel medicine at University of Washington School of Medicine, told CNN.
The vast majority of cases are centred around China’s Hubei province, where there’s a massive containment effort to stem the virus’ spread, said Lynch. Plus, cruise lines are paying close attention to where passengers are coming from and taking the threat very seriously, he said.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to get on a cruise boat, if that’s something you like to do,” Dr Lynch said.