Cruise lines are being urged to become more proactive in detecting and preventing the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).
The call has come from Jamaica’s Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton who on Thursday, acknowledged the sub-sector’s importance to tourism but argued that it presents a different type of challenge than the airline industry, given the large number of passengers cruise ships carry for long periods.
Dr Tufton was speaking against the background of Jamaica’s refusal to allow MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia, carrying 6,100 people, to dock at Ocho Rios, St Ann, on Tuesday, after it was discovered that a sick crew member had been isolated on-board.
“These are like floating villages and have the capacity and infrastructure on-board to develop better health care facilities. They could help in the fight by coordinating with the WHO (World Health Organization) and with the jurisdiction they travel to, to have the test kits on-board so that when persons fall ill they can actually administer the test or coordinate with the destination which they are going to, where those test samples may be collected and submitted in the shortest possible time so that those results can take place,” he told the Jamaica Observer after hosting a news conference at which he and health officials updated the country on Tuesday’s decision.
He stressed that it is impractical to expect countries, particularly those with limited resources, to fully take on the responsibility of dealing with suspected cases on cruise ships, given the volume of people the vessels carry, the short turnaround schedules, and the risk posed to countries.
“We have to have a different approach. Cruise lines need to do more other than depend on the respective countries to validate or to test suspected cases, or to quarantine and allow the rest of passengers to disembark,” Dr Tufton argued.
Meanwhile, he said given the importance of cruise shipping to the region, discussions on the issue have started at the Caricom level and with the Caribbean Public Health Agency.