Image credits: Jamie Morrison
News Article

COVID-19 Conundrum Regarding Cruise Ships

By Cas Biekmann | Thu, 04/02/2020 - 14:42

Once a cruise ship sees its passengers begin to show flu-like symptoms, health issues become something much more complicated. There are plenty of examples of countries being very reluctant to let ships dock, fearing that letting passengers inland will lead to further infections on their territory. The COVID-19 virus is still going strong and with limited medical capabilities, sea travelers are at high risk of being quarantined.

Passengers on the Grand Princess, a cruise liner travelling from San Francisco to Mexico, were finally released from their quarantine at a US air force base yesterday after being on the ship since March 9. Although thousands were on board, only a few dozen people tested positive.

While caution is expected, a lack of solidarity between governments can have consequences. The New York Times reported that the Mexican government is receiving passengers from cruise ships for humanitarian reasons. To counter potential infections, the government has opted to sanitize arriving passengers. One example was the MSC Meraviglia. After its docking, extensive tests were carried out by Mexico’s Ministry of Health on board with no infections found.

Regarding the US’ handling of the pandemic, US President Donald Trump has shown concern for the cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam, on which dozens of people are infected and four people have died – one of them of completely unrelated causes to COVID-19. The ship has plenty of American passengers, among others, making it a concern for the country. If a cruise ship waves a foreign flag, however, the US coast guard has warned them to prepare to deal with infections on board for an undetermined time and recommends ships to seek humanitarian help elsewhere, as reported by NPR.

In case of infections on board, everyone is at risk, including crew and passengers. Countries fear that offering humanitarian help will only result in the virus spreading faster within their borders. But as Mexico showed with the MSC Meraviglia, showing compassion and working according to safety standards can lead to the safest outcome for all parties involved.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
El Universal, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian
Photo by:   Jamie Morrison
Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst