Twenty one people stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of California have tested positive for coronavirus, the US vice president says.
Mike Pence confirmed the people infected on the Grand Princess, which has been held off San Francisco, included 19 crew members.
All 3,500 passengers and crew on board, which includes more than 140 Britons, will now be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Mr Pence said the US government is working with California officials on a plan to bring the ship to a non-commercial port this weekend where all passengers will be tested.
He added that it was likely the crew members caught the virus on two different voyages of the ship and he expects 1,110 members of staff on the vessel to be quarantined.
Kari Kolstoe, 60, who has a rare form of cancer, went on the cruise ahead of more planned treatment. And she is now concerned she will miss her appointment.
She told Reuters news agency: “It’s still a worry that I’m going to not get back.
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“I recently lost my dad, and I just believe he’s up there, going to fix this little situation somehow and I’m going to test negative and get to go home and get some treatment.”
British couple Neil and Victoria Hanlon are also among those on the cruise ship.
They told Sky News: “There is a very ill passenger on board and they are hopefully going to airlift this passenger off some time this evening.”
A helicopter has been seen dropping testing kits on board and all of the passenger will be tested.
Mr and Mrs Hanlon said they have not been tested yet and the captain is getting annoyed about the lack of information he has to pass on to passengers.
The couple were to due to disembark the ship today and arrive back in the UK tomorrow.
Mr Hanlon, from Somerset, continued: “Spirits are still pretty high but it’s still early days.
“We’re a bit fed up just sitting and lying around and getting no exercise. We’re waiting for an update to tell us where we’re going.”
US President Donald Trump said earlier on Friday that he would rather have the Grand Princess passengers remain on board but he would let others make the decision whether to let them leave.
“I’d rather have them stay on, personally, but I fully understand if they want to take them off,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, President Trump has signed a bill to provide $8.3bn (£6.4bn) to bolster the capacity to test for coronavirus and fund other measures in the US.
Passengers on the ship had been told to stay in their cabins while dozens of people on board were tested for coronavirus.
A military helicopter flew testing kits to the Grand Princess before they were lowered on to the vessel on a 950-ft rope.
The ship had been due to dock in San Francisco on Wednesday but has been held at sea.
It comes after seven passengers on a previous voyage of the ship became infected with the virus, including one man who died in California’s first coronavirus fatality.
Some passengers from that trip to Mexico stayed aboard for the Grand Princess’s current voyage, which was returning to San Francisco after visiting Hawaii.
Samples from the coronavirus tests on board the ship were analysed at a laboratory in the San Francisco Bay area.
Passenger Michele Smith said she had been told that only people who had been on the previous Mexico voyage or those showing flu-like symptoms had to isolate themselves.
“Spirits are as high as can be under these circumstances,” she said.
“We are blessed to be healthy, comfortable and well-fed.”
Another Princess cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined for two weeks in Japan last month after 700 people on board contracted coronavirus.
A British man in his 70s who was on board the ship died from the virus – the first UK fatality of the global outbreak.
In other developments:
- Twenty one people stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of California have tested positive for coronavirus.
- Sports authorities and broadcasters to meet officials for discussions on UK coronavirus contingency plans.
- Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has passed 100,000. There have been 3,400 deaths worldwide.
- London’s FTSE-100 has seen its biggest fall of the coronavirus crisis.
- Boris Johnson pledges an extra £46m for research into coronavirus vaccines and rapid diagnostic tests in the UK.
- Donald Trump has signed a bill to provide $8.3bn (£6.4bn) to bolster the capacity to test for coronavirus and fund other measures in the US.
- Dr Mike Ryan, from the World Health Organisation, said it was “a false hope” that coronavirus would disappear in the summer like flu.
- Officials in the US city of Austin have cancelled the South by Southwest arts and technology festival.
- A 43-year-old British man is confirmed with COVID-19 in Thailand, while the Vatican confirmed its first case.
- Iran’s death toll from the virus jumped to 124, as more than 1,000 new cases were diagnosed over 24 hours.
- The death toll in Italy rose by 49 to 197 on Friday, the largest daily increase in fatalities.
- Mainland China had 99 new confirmed cases of infections on Friday, down from 143 cases a day earlier.
US considers advising against cruise holidays
The United States is said to be considering ways to discourage people from taking cruises as part of its effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The proposals are being discussed ahead of a meeting between the cruise industry and US Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading America’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The US could advise Americans to temporarily avoid travelling on cruise ships or potentially impose travel restrictions related to cruises, officials told Reuters.
Shares in Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have fallen around 50% since January.
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Cruise ship avoids Malta to prevent ‘public unrest’
A cruise ship was forced to abandon its planned stop in Malta after doctors reportedly threatened industrial action if it was allowed to dock over coronavirus fears.
The MSC Opera, which is carrying more than 2,300 passengers and crew, will no longer stop in Malta “to avoid unnecessary public unrest”, its operator MSC Cruises said.
It comes after the Medical Association of Malta and the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses insisted they would order industrial action if the ship was allowed to berth, according to Malta Today.
MSC Cruises said “this unfortunate situation was caused locally by misinformation that had circulated regarding the medical conditions of the ship”.
Earlier this week, passengers and crew on the ship were told not to leave the vessel when it docked in Greece after a former passenger contracted coronavirus.
They were kept on board the MSC Opera for several hours while officials conducted a review of the ship’s full medical records.
It was then allowed to leave the port city of Piraeus and sail to Corfu as planned, MSC Cruises said.
The company has insisted there are no passengers or crew members on board the ship with any flu-like symptoms.
It is now sailing it Messina in Italy, which is facing Europe’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, where it is due to arrive on Sunday.
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12 coronavirus cases on Nile cruise
Twelve cases of coronavirus have been recorded on board a cruise ship on the River Nile, Egypt’s health ministry said.
All of the cases were asymptomatic, meaning they carry the virus but display no symptoms of illness such as fever.
The patients were diagnosed after a Taiwanese-American woman, who had been on the cruise, tested positive for COVID-19 after she returned home.
The 12 people with the virus will be transfered to an isolation facility and those who had contact with them will be placed under a 14-day quarantine, Egypt’s health ministry said.
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The cruise ship was towed to an area about 12 miles away from Luxor and placed under quarantine, according to local media.
The ship had reportedly been on a two-day Nile voyage, passing tourist sites such as the Kom Ombo temple and Edfu.
Before the ship’s coronavirus cases, Egypt had only diagnosed three people with the virus, one of whom it said had fully recovered after receiving treatment.
COVID-19 surfaced in China latest last year and has spread to over 90 countries, with more than 100,000 infections and 3,400 deaths.
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