Chaos in the Caribbean as ports turn away cruises on virus fears

(The Jakarta Post)– The Dominican Republic turned away a cruise ship with about 1,500 people on board Thursday, the latest such episode as coronavirus concerns spread to tourist meccas in the Caribbean.

Local officials there refused to let passengers leave the Braemar Thursday after learning that some aboard the ship, operated by Bonheur ASA’s Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, were under observation for flu, cough and respiratory problems.

The company said no guests or crew had shown symptoms consistent with coronavirus, and that the move was an “overreaction.”

“We believe that this was as a result of a small number of influenza-like cases on board,” the company said.

Meanwhile, passengers aboard the MSC Meraviglia were awaiting test results in Cozumel, Mexico, after their ship was barred from docking in Jamaica and Grand Cayman.

The episodes underscore the heightened concern of public officials over coronavirus following confirmed cases on a ship in Asia. Previously, vessels had been turned away or quarantined in Asia and Europe, but the new incidents strike closer to home for US and Latin American authorities and threaten the US industry’s core market of the Caribbean.

The largest US-based operators — Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. — have lost about $31 billion in market value in about six weeks. Shares of Carnival, the industry giant, closed at their lowest in more than six years on Thursday. MSC Cruises, which operates the Meraviglia, is closely held, and Fred. Olsen is part of a larger company.

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