Wed | Jun 3, 2020

No cruise booking fallout from coronavirus, official says

Published:Wednesday | February 12, 2020 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Journalists gather near the United States-operated Diamond Princess anchored at Yokohama Port, near Tokyo, on Wednesday, February 12. Japan’s health ministry confirmed that 174 cases of the novel coronavirus aboard the cruise ship. The cruise ship carrying 3,700 passengers and crew into Japan is expected to remain under quarantine until at least February 19.

WESTERN BUREAU:

While cruise shipping in the geographical region surrounding China, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus, is being severely affected by contagion and death, it’s business as usual in Jamaica, albeit the precautionary measures put in place to create a security buffer.

According to Michael Belnavis, chairman of the National Cruise Council (NCC), Jamaica has not experienced any fall-off in bookings or cancellations, leaving local cruise industry officials buoyant about the sector’s prospects.

“In fact, we are confident that we will be seeing record arrivals this year, especially in Ocho Rios, which has taken over from Falmouth as our leading local destination,” he said.

Last week, Belnavis told The Gleaner that all cruise passengers coming to the region were prescreened in the United States to ensure that only persons free of the virus were allowed to leave their port.

The novel coronavirus, which was first detected in the city of Wuhan last December, has already accounted for more 1,000 deaths, almost exclusively in mainland China. It is now causing global jitters as another 42,638 people worldwide have reportedly contracted the deadly virus.

Yesterday, the United States-based Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which is the leading voice in global cruise shipping, sought to play down the impact of the coronavirus on the industry.

“The health and safety of cruise passengers and crew is and remains the number one priority of CLIA and its member lines, which make up over 90 per cent of ocean-going cruise capacity worldwide,” a statement issued by the association said.

The CLIA said further that it had adopted a number of enhanced protocols for ocean-going guests and crew because of the evolving nature of the coronavirus outbreak as well as guidance from global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

- Members are to deny boarding to all persons who have travelled from, visited, or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 14 days before embarkation.

- CLIA members are to deny boarding to all persons who, within 14 days before embarkation, have had close contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus, or who is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.

- Members are to conduct preboarding screening necessary to preprevention measures. Enhanced screening and initial medical support are to be provided, as needed, to any persons exhibiting symptoms of suspected novel coronavirus.

- In coordination with cruise lines, medical experts and regulators around the world, the CLIA and its member lines will continue to closely monitor for new developments related to the coronavirus and will modify these policies as necessary with the utmost consideration for the health and safety of passengers and crew.

Despite the CLIA strict protocol, at least one local cruise shipping expert is adding one extra level of security to create additional assurance for his staff and those they serve.

“My staff members are offered the option of wearing a mask,” said Dr Lee Bailey, who heads the Montego Bay-based CCS Tours Limited. “It (coronavirus) cannot be taken lightly … . In most cases, viruses become ship-borne and air-borne, so regardless of what measures are in place, we still have to be extremely cautious as extra protection.”