Thousands of people are now trapped aboard a cruise ship, anchored off the coast near Italy, quarantined over possible exposure to coronavirus.
The Costa Smeralda will remain in the port of Civitavecchia, about 40 miles from Rome until the situation is resolved, and all passengers — seven thousand people per reports — will remain aboard, quarantined amid concerns that at least two people from Macao, near China, are sick with the deadly illness.
ABC 7 reports that a “54-year-old woman, who reportedly came down with a fever and other flu-like symptoms, was put into isolation along with her husband.”
“As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage the clinical condition. The health authority has been immediately notified and is now on board to conduct all the pertinent measures,” the cruise ship company said in a statement.
“It is our utmost priority to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew,” the statement continued. “The company is at the complete disposal of the Health Authority and their indication will be strictly applied. Costa Cruises continue to apply the relevant national policies and epidemic developments, as per World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indications.”
“All the planned mechanisms were activated,” the Italian Coast Guard confirmed. “Health authorities are on board, doing checks. The situation is under control. There’s a security cordon on the dock.”
There are six thousand passengers and one thousand crew members aboard the Costa Smeralda, which was on a one-week journey around the Mediterranean from Mallorca, Spain, to Marseilles in France, finally docking in Civitavecchia on Thursday. No one will be allowed to fully depart the cruise until the woman’s test results come back. Those are expected this afternoon.
If she tests positive for the coronavirus, the seven thousands passengers and cruise members could remain on board indefinitely while medical personnel treat the patients and prevent the illness from spreading. Fortunately for most passengers, the virus is not easily spread, according to health officials, and the real danger comes from complications to the illness, including a “a deadly form of pneumonia,” per The Hill.
So far, approximately 7,800 people have contracted coronavirus and around 170 people have died. Most of the victims are from Wuhan, China, but there are now identified victims in all regions of China; there have been just 68 cases identified outside of China, including 5 cases in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control report that they are screening for the illness at 20 international airports inside the United States and have quarantined a number of travelers, including several hundred American evacuees from Wuhan, who are now undergoing health screenings at an Air Force base in California.
There have been no coronavirus deaths outside of China.
The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Thursday to identify issues with the illness and to begin formulating a plan in case the coronavirus outbreak turns into a global pandemic. The group has yet to decide whether to declare the situation a “global health emergency.”