Cruise Ship Carrying Taiwanese Passengers in Limbo Over Coronavirus Measures

Cruise Ship Carrying Taiwanese Passengers in Limbo Over Coronavirus Measures
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What you need to know

A cruise ship carrying over 1,700 Taiwanese passengers has been sent back and forth between the ports of Taiwan and Japan.

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The cruise ship Superstar Aquarius, carrying over 1,700 Taiwanese passengers on board, has made yet another U-turn from Okinawa’s Naha port to Keelung, Taiwan. 

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced on February 5 that international cruise ships that have visited China, Hong Kong or Macau in the last 14 days will be prohibited from docking at Taiwanese ports. The immediate decision, however, left the Superstar Aquarius cruise ship temporarily stranded between Naha and Keelung. 

Originally scheduled to return to Keelung on Friday, February 7, the Superstar Aquarius has sailed in circles as the Taiwanese and Japanese government officials negotiated on where the passengers can be dropped off. 

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Screenshot From MarineTraffic
Superstar Aquarius’ maneuvers in the last 12 hours indicate the uncertainty of its destination. Taken at 12:15 Taipei time on February 7, 2020. 

After the cruise ship ban, the CECC had only permitted the Taiwanese nationals onboard to return via the Keelung seaport. Meanwhile, passengers from the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other countries were to be dropped off at Naha. But the Japanese government rejected the docking today and sent the ship back to Keelung. 

Mr. Ting, a Taiwanese traveler on the Superstar Aquarius, told The News Lens that upon their arrival in Naha, the Japanese authorities denied the ship’s request to dock. “We are now returning to Taiwan, and we are expected to arrive at Keelung around noon on Saturday,” he said.

More than 40 people on board are believed to have a history of Chinese travel on the Aquarius ship. Taiwan’s Health Minister, Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), said the authorities will screen the passengers for fever onboard upon the ship’s arrival at the port. The passengers will be under home quarantine for 14 days if no one shows any symptoms. However, if anyone is tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival, the rest of the travelers will be quarantined on the ship for two weeks, he said. 

Passengers onboard are still allowed to freely use the facilities of the ship. “People on the ship are clearly worried, but staying calm,” Mr. Ting said.

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Photo Credit: The News Lens
Passengers onboard Superstar Aquarius go about their daily business as usual.
Cruise ships in quarantine

If health authorities confirm any cases of infection on the Superstar Aquarius, it might become the third quarantined cruise ship in a series of coronavirus outbreaks on tourist vessels, this time on Taiwan’s shore.

The Diamond Princess, carrying 3,700 passengers, is currently quarantined in the port of Yokohama, Japan. A total of 61 patients have tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus after docking in Hong Kong.

Another ship named World Dream is also being held in Hong Kong. The World Dream, carrying more than 3,600 passengers, has traveled to Vietnam and China in January. 32 out of the 33 crew members had tested developed symptoms of the coronavirus. 

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 600 people and infected over 31,000, mostly in China. 


READ NEXT: What Taiwan Has Done to Curb Coronavirus Spread

TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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