Some 2,300 passengers on a cruise ship off Greece were quarantined after the captain said an Austrian tourist who left the ship on Feb. 28 had been infected with the coronavirus, but that it would be allowed to go to Corfu.
Some were called back on board the MSC Opera from Athens where they had left for an excursion and sightseeing, said the British newspaper The Daily Mirror, with no report on how Greek health officials could contain the spread if any passengers had also been infected and passed it on in the capital city.
The virus patient, a man, had disembarked in Genoa in northern Italy, the region at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, where there have been at least 107 deaths and some 3,098 cases with the government there shutting down whole tourist regions.
The tourist who got off, from Austria, was on the ship during a two-week East Mediterranean cruise before departing in Italy. It wasn’t until after he disembarked that symptoms began showing, and later he was confirmed to have tested positive.
Captain Pietro Esposito sent a letter to the passengers stating that he was waiting to hear from Greek authorities what to do. “We are proactively taking a number of preventive and precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all passengers. All passengers and crew are requested to remain on board until we have further clarity on the matter,” he wrote.
Trying to keep calm on board he said there no indications others had been infected although it can take days for symptoms to show, with Greece’s New Democracy government already having a contingency plan to shut down public gatherings if the virus spreads.
American passengers Mike Knotts and his wife Charysse, told the Daily Mirror that they were suddenly called back to the boat while visiting the Acropolis in Athens.
“We were told that there was a security problem and we had to return to the ship. When we got back the captain made an announcement and we were given letters. There was lots of drama at the front desk with one man yelling. We’re now on our way to Corfu but we don’t even know if we will be able to get off the ship,” he recalled.
The report also said that Greek Health authorities gave the ship permission to continue its journey from Piraeus to its next scheduled port on Corfu despite not knowing if there were more cases on board for now.
“No additional health measures were required to be taken and the ship is currently sailing as planned. There are no passengers or crew members currently on board the ship who have reported any flu-like symptoms. The health and safety of our passengers and crew will always remain our top priority,” a spokesman for MSC Cruises said.