Coronavirus-hit cruise ship passengers find out about cases on TV

Passengers on a cruise ship that has been quarantined off the US coast were only told 21 people had tested positive for coronavirus after Vice President Mike Pence announced it on TV.

Mike Pence said all 3,500 passengers and crew on board the Grand Princess, which includes more than 140 Britons, will now be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

He said 19 crew members on the vessel, which has been held off San Francisco, were among those that had tested positive.

A helicopter deliver coronavirus test kits to the Grand Princess
Image:A helicopter delivered coronavirus testing kits to the Grand Princess

US President Donald Trump has said he would prefer the passengers to stay on board, but would listen to experts if their advice is for people to be taken off.

Before the test results were released, he said allowing passengers back onto US soil who might become sick later would end up increasing the number of coronavirus cases in the country.

“I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” he said.

He 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.

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 06: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing at the White House March 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier today the World Health Organization urged governments around the world to unleash their full power to combat the spread of the virus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Image:Mike Pence confirmed 21 people on board the Grand Princess had tested positive for coronavirus

At least one passenger expressed anger that the captain relayed the information 20 minutes after Mr Pence’s announcement.

“Why did we not know before the vice president announced it on TV?” Kari Kolstoe, a retired teacher from Grand Forks, North Dakota, said.

The 60-year-old, who has a rare form of cancer, went on the cruise ahead of more planned treatment. 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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Singing to pass the time on coronavirus-hit ship

It is not the first cruise ship to be affected by coronavirus.

Experts have criticised Japanese bureaucrats’ handling of the Diamond Princess, where ultimately about 700 people were infected and six died after it was quarantined off the coast of Japan.

There have been claims the large number of infections occurred because the situation was mismanaged.

A British man in his 70s who was on board the ship died from the virus – the first UK fatality of the global outbreak.

Mr Pence said the US government is working with California officials on a plan to bring the Grand Princess – a sister ship to the Diamond Princess – to a non-commercial port this weekend where all passengers will be tested.

He added that it is 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.

Neil and Victoria Hanlon are on board the Grand Princess vessel where 21 people tested positive for the disease.

‘We’re a bit fed up’: UK pair stuck on ship

Passengers on the ship have been told to stay in their cabins, and a military helicopter has been seen lowering testing kits on to the vessel via a 950-ft rope.

The ship had been due to dock in San Francisco on Wednesday but has been held at sea.

British couple Neil and Victoria Hanlon are also among those on the boat.

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 hovers over the Grand Princess cruise ship
Image:A military helicopter hovers over the Grand Princess cruise ship

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 on 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.”

A helicopter delivers coronavirus test kits to the Grand Princess
Image:The helicopter crew lowered the coronavirus testing kits on a 950ft rope

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.

Medical personnel Guardian Angels with the 129th Rescue Wing, alongside individuals from the CDC don full personal protective equipment as they prepare to test travelers on the Grand Princess cruise ship for the coronavirus currently off the coast of California, U.S. in this handout photograph obtained on March 5, 2020. California National Guard/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.?
Image:Passengers on board the cruise ship have been tested for coronavirus

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.”

Medical personnel Guardian Angels with the 129th Rescue Wing, alongside individuals from the CDC don full personal protective equipment as they prepare to test travelers on the Grand Princess cruise ship for the coronavirus currently off the coast of California, U.S. in this handout photograph obtained on March 5, 2020. California National Guard/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.?
Image:The ship is stranded of the coast of California

In other developments:

  • Second person in UK dies after contracting coronavirus
  • UK Sports authorities and broadcasters are to meet officials for discussions on UK coronavirus contingency plans
  • Premier League in UK to consider empty stadiums and over-70s ban
  • Iran says there have been 1,000 new coronavirus cases and a further 21 people have died after contracting the virus, taking the total number of deaths in the country to 145 and cases to 5,823
  • South Korea reports 448 new cases which takes its total to 7,041
  • The number of people to test positive for COVID-19 in Germany rises by 45 overnight to 684
  • Malta reports its first case: a 12-year-old Italian girl who lives on island
  • 15 Americans are quarantined in a Bethlehem hotel over coronavirus fears
  • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declares a national emergency
  • The lender Intesa Sanpaolo says it is ready to donate up to €100m to Italy to tackle the outbreak and grant up to €5bn in loans to affected firms
  • Cases are up from 30 to 45 in the United Arab Emirates, its health ministry says
  • Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has passed 100,000 and there have been 3,400 deaths worldwide

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.

Coronavirus: The infection numbers in real time

Coronavirus: The infection numbers in real time

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”.

The MSC Opera cruise ship approaches the port of the island of Corfu
Image:The MSC Opera cruise ship was forced to abandon its planned stop in Malta

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 to Messina in Italy, the country facing Europe’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, where it is due to arrive on Sunday.

How does COVID-19 attack the human body?

How does COVID-19 attack the human body?

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 transferred 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 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 late last year and has spread to over 90 countries, with more than 100,000 infections and 3,400 deaths.

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Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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