Cruise ship to sail from Durban to Portuguese Islands amid coronavirus fears

16 March 2020 - 16:17 By Naledi Shange
A MSC cruise ship is set to sail from Durban to the Portuguese Islands on Monday, despite fears around the spread of the coronavirus.
A MSC cruise ship is set to sail from Durban to the Portuguese Islands on Monday, despite fears around the spread of the coronavirus.
Image: MSC

A MSC cruise vessel is set to depart from Durban harbour on Monday afternoon as efforts are ramped up by the government to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The cruise operator issued a statement indicating it was aware of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to limit travel and avoid gatherings of more than 100 people, but said it was not necessarily banned from operating.

“We have received clarity from the various government stakeholders regarding port closures. The ports of Durban and Cape Town are open to cruise passengers and crew,” MSC said in on its website.

“In addition, we are seeking clarification on gatherings of 100 people or more being prohibited. However, we know cinemas, shopping malls and airports are still open. This has been confirmed by the ministry of health. As a result of the above clarifications, the cruise season is continuing as planned.”

MSC said it was aware of the severity of the coronavirus and the president’s call to limit travel, and would therefore accommodate passengers who wanted to postpone their trips.

“In light of this, any passenger who does not wish to travel will be provided with a voucher to the value of their current cruise for use in the upcoming local cruise season in 2020/2021,” MSC said.

However, it may be too late for those who were scheduled to leave on Monday’s trip.

“Passengers have the option to move their cruise within 48  hours of the initial cruise departure. Guests will also receive an additional $50 on board credit per cabin to be used on a cruise in the next season,” the cruise operator said.

Extensive measures had been taken to ensure the safety of passengers. These included the deep sanitising of ships and banning passengers who had recently visited high-risk countries.

All guests were also subjected to thermal scans before boarding.

“Passengers with signs or symptoms of the illness, such as fever or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty with breathing, will be denied embarkation,” MSC said.

The cruise ship operator is also depending on the honesty of passengers.

It said any guest who had in the past 14 days been in close contact with or helped care for anyone suspected of having Covid-19, or who was subject to health monitoring for possible exposure, would be denied boarding.

MSC said it was prepared to deal with the situation should any passengers show signs of having the virus.

“If guests develop fever symptoms once on board, they will be isolated in their cabin and the same measure applies for their travel companions and close contacts on board, including guests staying in the same cabin and family members, as well as any crew member who may have had contact with these guests,” said MSC.