India bans cruise ships amid COVID-19 spread

Following a rising number of COVID-19 cases in India, the government has banned cruise ships from entering its port. Credit: AFP

India has joined a number of countries in banning entry to foreign cruise ships amid the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

The sudden Indian ban affected one of MSC Cruises’ ships, MSC Lirica, which was rebuffed by Mangalore port on 7 March 2020. MSC Lirica is carrying some 2,000 passengers and 700 crew.

Besides India, Malaysia, Maldives, Tonga, and Vietnam are also known to have banned entry to foreign cruise ships. The US is also reportedly considering discouraging its citizens from going on cruises in the near term, and this has drawn criticism from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

CLIA said, “Any action to restrict cruising is unwarranted, and at odds with the World Health Organization that continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. Singling out the travel and tourism industry, and cruise lines specifically, will have significant detrimental impacts – some possibly irreversible – on the national and local economies.

“The cruise industry is a vital artery for the US economy, supporting over 421,000 American jobs and contributing nearly USD53 billion to the US economy in 2018. Cruise activity supports travel agencies, airlines, hotels, and a broad supply chain of industries that stretches across the US. With the proactive measures in place by the cruise industry based on prevailing guidance from global health authorities, restricting cruising is unreasonable and will have long-lasting detrimental effects on the US economy well beyond the travel and tourism industry.”

MSC Cruises has since initiated a scheme to allow passengers to cancel their trips up to 48 hours in advance. The scheme will be in place from 10 March to 31 July 2020.

Meanwhile, one of Costa Crociere’s ships, Costa Fortuna, which was turned away by Malaysia and Thailand, docked at Singapore at 0735 h local time. All 600 passengers on board were found to be healthy.

Following the outbreaks on two of Princess Cruises’ ships, Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, which were quarantined in Japan and the US, respectively, there are concerns that the COVID-19 virus could easily be transmitted within the confines of cruise ships, which carry thousands of passengers and crew.