Another Princess Cruises ship hit by COVID-19

Helicopter delivering virus testing kits lowers crew down to the Grand Princess cruise ship on Thursday. Credit: Michele Smith/AP

The US Coast Guard (USCG) will deliver testing kits to the Grand Princess, a cruise ship that has been isolated off the Californian coast after a former passenger died from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Medical personnel on the ship, which had arrived from Hawaii, will administer the test to fewer than 100 symptomatic guests and crew.

Carnival Corporation unit Princess Cruises, which owns the ship, has cancelled the next sailing for the vessel. It is the second such incident to befall the company, after more than 700 passengers and crew caught COVID-19 on Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off Japan’s Yokohama port from 5 to 19 February 2020.

The latter cluster was traced to a former passenger, a Hong Kong man, who tested positive after disembarking from an earlier voyage. Six Diamond Princess passengers have since died.

The USCG helicoptered the testing kits to Grand Princess in the morning (US time) on 5 March 2020.

In a statement, Princess Cruises said, “There are fewer than 100 guests and crew identified for testing, including all in-transit guests, guests who sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained on board for the current Hawaii voyage, those guests and crew who have experienced influenza-like illness symptoms on this voyage, and guests currently under care for respiratory illness.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will not permit anyone to disembark from Grand Princess until all test results are received.

Princess Cruises continued, “Out of an abundance of caution, all guests who have been identified for testing have been asked to remain in their staterooms. We will continue to proceed under the guidance of the US CDC and local authorities.”

The cruise industry has been badly hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, with major operators slashing sailings due to weak demand.

Caused by a novel coronavirus, COVID-19 surfaced in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, but has spread worldwide, with nearly 100,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths. The World Health Organization has declared the situation a global health emergency and governments worldwide have imposed entry restrictions to nationals and people arriving from badly affected countries, such as China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy.