The Ministry of Health may allow Meraviglia cruise ship passengers to disembark when it arrives in The Bahamas today, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday.
The cruise ship was recently denied entry in Jamaica due to fears that a passenger might have the new coronavirus, recently named COVID-19.
“At the end of the day, this ship was, indeed, refused admission in Jamaica, but the reason why they were not allowed to disembark was related to an inability of the ship to fulfill their international maritime obligations,” Sands said when called for comment.
“The ship, by time as they were able to fulfill, they didn’t have any time to have passengers disembark.
“There is indeed a passenger who was quarantined on that vessel who has been confirmed to have Influenza A and symptoms consistent with Influenza A, and there is no information that we have that this person had been exposed to, suspected to have or diagnosed with COVID-19 infection.
“We have said to those persons inquiring as to whether or not this ship, which I understand was in The Bahamas on the 22nd, whether it will be allowed to return. But at this point, we have no information at all that would lead us to deny entry.
“However, out of an abundance of caution, we have requested that that person have a COVID-19 test and to confirm that it is indeed negative. The rationale of that is largely driven by the tremendous public interest and scrutiny on this case, and the level of, let’s call it ‘information’, that’s been disseminated widely.”
He added, “There is a heap of information that’s flying around social media, a lot of it presuming to know what the facts are of this case.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the virus – which originated in Wuhan, China, in December – a global health emergency on January 30.
Later that same day, the government of The Bahamas implemented a travel ban on all non-residents of The Bahamas who have visited China in the prior 20 days.
Bahamian residents are allowed to return but will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
While there are four Bahamians in quarantine, officials said there are no reported, suspected or confirmed cases in the country.
Up to press time, international media reported 81,406 cases with 2,771 deaths from COVID-19.
Sands recently said the ministry is closely following international developments related to the disease, but said that he feels the global response COVID-19 has been receiving may have been disproportionate as there are more lethal diseases impacting the world such as measles and influenza (the flu).
“I can assure you that the Ministry of Health, Port Health, will do our due diligence and we will err on the side of safety,” he said.
The Ministry of Health has also drafted a preparedness and response plan to deal with a possible outbreak of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.