The cruise shipping industry, which had been flourishing in the Caribbean in 2019, is proving to be a major headache for island ports (and for the cruise passengers). The economic fallout must be tremendous for cruise ship lines – and for those agencies, tourism companies and individuals who depend on them for income. If the virus reaches Jamaica (some say “when” it reaches) the economic fallout here could be severe, according to David Wan, President of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation. As I mentioned in a Gleaner blog post a few days ago, the mass market tourism industry we have created is a very fragile product.
Globally all seemed to start with the cruise ship that found itself in limbo in Japan. Over the weekend, the first British death from COVID-19 (the coronavirus) was a former passenger on the ill-fated Diamond Princess. Hundreds were eventually infected by the virus as it languished in quarantine in the port of Yokohama. About 14 percent of its crew became infected.
Since then, cruise ships have been running into trouble in the Caribbean. Two or three of them have been wandering around trying to find a port that would allow them to dock. Today, another ship was delayed in port at Ocho Rios, with several passengers and crew members staying on board with “elevated temperatures.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton gave an update just about an hour ago, which I have posted here. So far, there are no cases of COVID-19 in Jamaica; two people are in quarantine. We are all trying to stay calm, and have stopped hugging, kissing (and even shaking hands) in our everyday socializing. We are getting nervous, although trying to stay calm. Fingers crossed! And keep washing your hands, etc…
Health Ministry announces interim guidelines for cruise ships visiting Jamaica
KINGSTON, Jamaica. Monday, March 2, 2020: In light of concerns from the cruise ship industry as to Jamaica’s requirements for admission to the island’s ports, the Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to advise that Interim Guidelines have been drafted and circulated to the Port Authority of Jamaica and relevant agencies.
According to the guidelines, any passenger or crew who have traveled, within the last 14 days, to any country for which a landing restriction is in place will not be allowed to disembark.
The decision to grant these privileges to other passengers or crew will be dependent on a review of ill persons on board for a determination as to whether their symptoms include fever and/or respiratory illnesses, either at the time of arrival in Jamaican waters or during the cruise.
As such, the following information must be presented for assessment and decision-making.
- Copy of the Medical Logs since the start of the voyage. In keeping with the “high risk” situation that the world now faces with respect to COVID-19, cruise lines should insist that all persons with illness report to the ship’s medical facility for treatment. Jamaica requests that travel history, temperatures and the presence or absence of respiratory symptoms be recorded and submitted for review.
- Travel History for all persons in the Medical log. A travel history must be taken for all persons presenting to the ship’s medical facility. Any person who has a fever and/or respiratory symptoms who has been in a country where there is transmission of COVID-19 should be immediately isolated and close contacts quarantined (refer to the WHO document on Management of Public Health risks on ships).
- Temperature log of all persons, including within the last 24 hours prior to arrival, traveling from the countries with travel restrictions within the past fourteen (14) days. Jamaica recommends that persons with a travel history to countries with transmission of COVID-19 be monitored on board as if in home/self quarantine. These persons were at risk of exposure to the virus and may be in the incubation phase of the disease. The early detection of symptoms and isolation of persons is key to stopping transmission. Therefore, persons must be monitored on board the ship and all persons encouraged to visit the ship’s medical facility if they are unwell. Jamaica requires that a temperature log be kept of all persons of interest and be submitted to the authorities in Jamaica.
- Updated Maritime Declaration of Health within four (4) hours of the ship’s arrival.
These requirements have been increased in light of the increased risk to the country, with the rapid transmission of COVID-19 to now more than 60 countries, including three Caribbean territories.