In an attempt to prevent the coronavirus (covid19) from entering local shores, government has banned Italian cruise ship Costa Magica from docking at the Scarborough Port in Tobago.
The cruise liner was expected to arrive on Sunday, but it can no longer do so because of government’s revised policy to prevent non-nationals from China, Italy, Iran, Japan, Singapore and South Korea from entering TT.
These countries have confirmed cases of the covid19 virus, Dr Tiffany Hoyte, acting County Medical Officer of Health told a news conference at the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development’s head office, Wilson Road, Scarborough, on Friday. She said although government’s policy of preventing non-nationals from entering the country was initially limited to China, that has now been extended to the five countries.
“So, for non-nationals coming from China, Italy, Iran, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, those persons would be required to be out of those countries for a period of at least 14 days before they are allowed entry into Trinidad and Tobago,” she told reporters. Hoyte said the policy does not apply to national or permanent residents.
“We cannot refuse entry to our nationals but the policy will continue that if such persons return, they will be kept under self quarantine.”
Hoyte stressed the Costa Magica, which brought tourists to the island several weeks ago, will not be at the port on Sunday.
“Reason being, they are aware of the government’s policy that persons from these six countries, if you have just one (passenger) on board and they have not been out (of the five blacklisted countries) for the 14 days then such cruise ships will not be allowed entry. Persons will not be allowed off.”
The decision to ban the Costa Magica comes amid anxiety among workers at Pigeon Point and other beach facilities that the vessel, which carries hundreds of passengers, would have docked at the port on Sunday. Some of the workers have even threatened to stay away from work.
Hoyte said, though, another cruise ship will arrive at the Scarborough Port on Sunday.
“We have confirmed that this cruise ship does not have any of these persons from any of these six countries and they have no problems as per their health declaration, so this ship will be present at the port on Sunday. But the Costa Magica will not be coming.”
Hoyte assured citizens that vessels are being meticulously scrutinised “especially now with the cruise ship season.”
Regarding the ban on the Costa Magica, she said: “We have done due diligence and we have made sure and had discussions with the agents.
“So they have made sure that all the remaining vessels, because the season is winding down, are aware of the new policy and the Costa Magica actually took that decision because they would have had persons who would have fit into one of the (blacklisted) countries and, therefore, no one would have been able to get off the ship as is the policy.”
She said surveillance at air and sea ports have been strengthened even though there are no confirmed cases of covid19 in TT.
TT NOT ALONE
TT is not the first country in the Caribbean to ban a cruise ship from docking on its shores. Last month Jamaica refused entry to the MSC Meraviglia, after it was discovered that a crew member was placed in isolation on-board.
“The crew member had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains with a travel history to a country of interest relating to the novel coronavirus,” the Jamaica government said in a statement.
Cruise liners are also taking into consideration the bans being implemented and revising their schedules. Originally set to make calls at Jamaica and Cayman Islands, the Carnival Horizon and Carnival Freedom ships have removed those stops.
Last month the MV Caribbean Princess, a cruise ship carrying over 3,000 passengers and a 1,000 member crew, was refused entry into Port of Spain because of an outbreak of gastroenteritis on-board the vessel.
The economic blow of banning the Costa Magica is yet to be quantified but when it arrived in late December along with the Pacific Princess last year, the Division of Tourism said over 800 passengers had pre-booked tours to attractions like Pigeon Point, Buccoo, the Argyle Waterfall, Little Tobago and the rainforest.
On Friday, Dr Roxanne Mitchell, acting general manager, primary care, said training and education is being pursued more aggressively through agencies such as the Pan-American Health Organisation and Caribbean Public Health Agency. “Here on the island we are upping or sensitisation to not only the internal stakeholders, namely the TRH’s but also to external stakeholders,” she said.