Health officials in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Friday, allowed to dock in Kingstown, a cruise ship with ill passengers, which was turned away from St. Lucia the following day and denied entry in Dominica two days later.
Castries, on Saturday, denied the AIDA Perla — which had more than 3,000 passengers on board — permission to dock at Pointe Seraphine after health authorities confirmed that some passengers were experiencing respiratory tract infections.
The Department of Health & Wellness denied reports that there may have been cases of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has killed more than 200 people in China and which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a global health emergency, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported.
Roseau made a similar decision on Sunday, with the Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Investment saying the step was taken after a risk assessment of the vessel, which was scheduled to arrive in Dominica that day.
“Based on the available information, and taking into consideration the public health risk posed to Dominica, a decision was taken that the ship will no longer be arriving in Dominica as originally scheduled,” the ministry said.
But on Sunday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves defended Kingstown’s decision to allow the vessel to dock two days earlier, saying, “we have to act sensibly with the protocols and don’t panic”.
Gonsalves said that onboard the cruise ship “there were 23, I think 23 persons, who had some kind of a virus.
“But they were isolated on the ship. They were crew members and some passengers,” he said on WE FM.
He said that the “Port Authority simply contacted, as we will do always, the public health, the chief medical officer, medical officer of health, all the entities involved and dealt with that problem so that you allow those who wanted to come off [and] could come off but those who had to be isolated were isolated on the ship.
“Some countries, by the time they hear somebody had a virus on the ship, they just say no they’re not having that person, they’re not having that ship at all.
“You know, one of the things with all of these problems, we have to act sensibly with the protocols and don’t panic.”
The prime minister informed listeners that a press conference on the coronavirus that Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne had scheduled for 10 a.m. today (Monday) had been pushed back to 1 p.m.
Gonsalves said this was because the minister and his technical staff had to participate in a Skype meeting with regional health officials Monday morning to discuss the coronavirus.
“I think the meeting is being held to make sure that everybody in the region acts consistently. Because some countries have been panicking,” Gonsalves said.
“Look, there are protocols which have been laid down through WHO (World Health Organisation), PAHO (Pan-American Health Organisation), CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) and which we apply,” he said.
“It’s not every incident that you just assume that it is the coronavirus,” the prime minister said.
The prime minister said that Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache had explained to him that when the cruise ship came, there were about 135 persons who had on the cruise “reported some kind of a discomfort”.
He, however, said, “… only 23 of them were currently reporting a problem — because the cruise came through different islands.
“If you see it is 135 active problems, then that’s a different number than 23 but you have to go through the detail to see whether there is something active and whether somebody suffered or is suffering and none of them was connected to the coronavirus.”