Cruise Lines Act on Coronavirus Risk
Major cruise lines operating in Asia are banning tourists who have been in the city of Wuhan or come from Hebei Province in a bid to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus at sea.
The virus has now infected over 2,000 people in China and killed 56. No fatalities have been reported outside China, but cases have now emerged in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam.
Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Dream Cruises and Star Cruises have implemented policies which also include temperature checks for boarding passengers, banning people who have a fever.
Some ports have also implemented temperature checks including cruise terminals in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. People from Hubei province will be banned from entering Hong Kong from Monday.
The virus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, and the Chinese government has announced a temporary ban on the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants and on e-commerce platforms.
The U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society says the ban should be permanent. Dr. Christian Walzer, chief global veterinarian at for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: “The banning of such sales will help end the possibility of future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, such as the Wuhan coronavirus. We learned this lesson with the outbreak of another zoonotic disease, SARS, in 2002. The pattern will keep repeating itself until we ban, not only in China, but in other countries, the sale of wildlife, specifically for food and in food markets.
“Poorly regulated, live animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population and for viruses to exchange viral components amongst the multiple species being traded creating new viruses with new host spectrums.”
The Society says there are three solutions to what is a complex global challenge: close live animal markets that sell wildlife; strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals within countries and across borders; and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviors, especially in cities.
“This may sound daunting,” says Walzer. “However, not only is this now a global health priority that cannot be ignored, but for China’s concerned populace and government, the time is right.
“Humans are getting sick from eating or being exposed to wildlife in these markets; wildlife populations are being depleted as they are poached and hunted for these markets; and economies and the poor are harmed as the mass culling of animals in response to these outbreaks increase the cost of basic animal protein (domesticated farm animals like chickens and pigs) that hit the poor the hardest.”