SuperStar Aquarius to dock in Keelung amid virus scare

Taipei Cruise ship SuperStar Aquarius will be allowed to dock in Keelung on Saturday despite a ban imposed by Taiwan on port calls of all international cruise liners as the global coronavirus epidemic has extended to cruise ships.

Health Minister Chen Shih chung (???), who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), said that because more than 90 percent of the ship's passengers are Taiwanese, the ship will be exempted from the ban on port calls imposed by Taiwan on Thursday.

A total of 1,709 of the SuperStar Aquarius' 1,738 passengers are Taiwanese, according to Star Cruises.

The ban was imposed after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus on a Princess Cruises cruise liner that arrived in Japan on Monday after a trip that included a 10 hour stop in the port of Keelung on Jan. 31.

As of Thursday, 61 people on the ship were confirmed as having the coronavirus, and the remaining passengers were confined to their rooms on the ship, raising concerns of whether they infected others while touring Keelung.

In the case of the SuperStar Aquarius, owned by Hong Kong based Star Cruises, it left Taiwan on Tuesday and docked in Naha of Okinawa on Wednesday and Thursday. It had previously planned to return to Keelung on Friday.

Chen said that when the SuperStar Aquarius arrives in Keelung, health officials will board the ship and take the temperatures of all of the passengers on the ship and have them fill out a health survey.

Those who have a fever, as well as passengers who have visited China in the past 30 days, or whose recent travel history is unclear, or who are foreign nationals will undergo more rigorous examinations.

Passengers with a fever will then be placed in quarantine.

If none of the passengers test positive for the coronavirus, they will be allowed to disembark and head home but will be required to monitor their health for the next 14 days, Chen said.

But if anyone tests positive for the coronavirus, they will be treated in a local hospital and the other passengers will be kept on the ship in quarantine to safeguard the health of people in Taiwan, Chen said.

In addition to the Taiwanese passengers, the ship also has 18 Filipino passengers, three Malaysians, three Vietnamese, one South Korean, one Indonesian, one Burmese, one Singaporean and one Chinese spouse, Star Cruises said.

According to Chen, more than 40 passengers on the cruise liner have visited China in the past 30 days.

A public relations officer at Star Cruises said no passengers on the ship were running a fever as of Friday noon.

Wang Chen hui (???), one of the Taiwanese passengers on the cruise liner, told CNA via Facebook that the captain of the SuperStar Aquarius announced that the ship will arrive in Keelung at noon Saturday and dock in its western pier.

Nobody has told passengers to stay in their rooms, however, or provided any information about the examinations they will undergo after the ship arrives in Keelung, Wang said.

Many passengers found out that health examinations will be conducted through the internet, Wang said.

Taiwan has reported 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, since the end of 2019.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel