CIVITAVECCHIA, Italy (Reuters) – Thousands of people were prevented from leaving a cruise ship in Italy on Thursday while tests for the new coronavirus were carried out on a passenger from Macau, a spokesman for the cruise company said.
The mayor of the city of Civitavecchia said he had asked authorities to prevent passengers from disembarking until it had been confirmed there were no cases of infection.
About 6,000 people were aboard the Costa Crociere company’s ship Costa Smeralda, a company spokesman said.
A 54-year-old woman who boarded the ship on Jan. 25 in the port of Savona came down with a fever and flu-like symptoms. Both she and her partner have been placed in an isolation unit on the ship, Costa Crociere said in a statement.
“I have asked the authorities not to permit the disembarkment until we are sure there is no risk,” Mayor Ernesto Tedesco said.
The ship had visited Marseilles in France and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.
Samples were taken to Rome’s Spallanzani institute, a centre specializing in infectious diseases and viruses. The Health Ministry press office said they hoped to announce the results of the tests later in the day.
“There is no tension, they (my relatives) have eaten, everything works, they should have been able to leave the ship but they cannot,” Adriano Pavan, the father of a passenger on board with two children, told Reuters.
Carla Configoni, the mother of a pregnant woman on board, said she had spoken to her daughter who was “very agitated”.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government was ready to take further steps if necessary, but did not elaborate.
“We’re not concerned, but we are absolutely vigilant and cautious in facing this prospect,” he told reporters during a trip to Bulgaria.
Countries have begun isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the locked down Chinese city of Wuhan to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 170 people.
Reporting by Antonio Denti, Cristiano Corvino, Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante; Editing by Alex Richardson and Janet Lawrence