In Reunion, Cruise Ships Greeted by Protests Over Coronavirus Concerns

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Published Mar 3, 2020 12:15 AM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise ships Azamara Quest and Sun Princess received an unusual welcome when they called at the French overseas territory of Reunion last weekend. According to local media, the vessels were greeted by demonstrators who were concerned about the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission. Neither vessel is believed to have any coronavirus cases on board. 

On Saturday, the Azamara Quest's passengers received a less-than-warm greeting from a handful of young men at the gate, video taken by Imaz Press Reunion showed. On Sunday, a larger group of demonstrators arrived and clashed with police, throwing objects and lighting trash on fire. Police officers in riot gear fired tear gas canisters in return, and one individual was arrested, the paper reported. The mayor of the port, Olivier Hoarau, called for calm and cautioned that excessive reactions are "a form of psychosis."

At Reunion's seaport, cruise passengers' temperatures have not been measured by public health officials prior to disembarkation, leading to concerns from local residents that the local government's preventative measures might not be stringent enough. "Of course we are not against the arrival of tourists . . . We just want to be sure that there is no risk of the spread of the coronavirus," one protester told IP Reunion. 

Sun Princess had earlier been refused entry to Madagascar due to public health measures. On February 1, the vessel called in Thailand, a nation with confirmed cases of coronavirus. She arrived in Madagascar 13 days later, having called in Zanzibar, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka without difficulty. The 13-day wait was not sufficient for Madagascar's authorities, who reportedly refused permission to disembark at the last minute. "There was no health issue on board to warrant denial of entry," Princess Cruises said in a statement.