Cruise ship travelers have been confined to their vessel while docked at an Italian port on Thursday after discovering two of their passengers may have the deadly coronavirus.
In total, 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members aboard the Costa Smeralda have been placed on lockdown at the port of Civitavecchia, the Daily Express reported. The lockdown began after the captain told port officials that they had a married couple from Hong Kong suspected of carrying the coronavirus aboard the cruise ship.
The possibly infected passengers were reported to have shown flu-like symptoms, including high temperatures and difficulty breathing. The couple reportedly joined the cruise ship in Savona, Italy after arriving in the country on Jan. 25.
The CDC has previously noted that the new coronavirus outbreak in China has been found to take up to 14 days to incubate before the symptoms can become fully apparent in a patient.
The couple was already being held in isolation when the cruise ship approached the port, but port officials have refused permission for others aboard the ship to leave.
“We are waiting to know the outcome of the checks still in progress, but everything that needed to be done has been done,” Vincenzo Leone, Lazio Coast Guard’s maritime director, said. “The situation is under control and at the moment there is no reason for concern on board.”
Leone said the lockdown had adhered to “the maritime health protocol envisaged in these cases.”
Doctors from the Spallanzani hospital in Rome reportedly boarded the vessel to carry out tests for the couple in question.
Police, port and public health officials were all reportedly waiting dockside for further developments on the ongoing quarantine.
“The situation on the suspected case of coronavirus at the port of Civitavecchia is under the careful control of all the bodies involved, including the local authority,” said Civitavecchia’s mayor, Ernesto Tedesco. “The health and maritime authorities have immediately taken action and the protocols envisaged are being followed and we will be constantly monitored.”
The cruise liner had made stops in Majorca and Barcelona Spain, as well as Marseille, France.
A passenger named Filippo told the Daily Express that many passengers had been gathering in common areas waiting for updates. He said the crew were not disclosing the official reason for why the passengers were stuck at port.
“We are worried because officially on board crew say nothing about. They talk about ‘normal’ controls,” he said. “We don’t know when we’ll disembark the ship.”
The number of coronavirus cases has expanded to 7,711 worldwide and the death toll in China has reportedly risen to 170.
The majority of the virus deaths have been recorded in China’s Hubei province where the outbreak began. More than 56 million people throughout the Hubei province have also been placed on travel lock downs, while they await more information about the cause and severity of the new virus.
The virus had already spread to other countries prior to this latest cruise liner incident. Cases have been reported in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, France, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Canada, and the U.S.