After being turned away from Jamaica and Grand Cayman, the MSC Meragvilia sailed to Cozumel, Mexico on Wednesday, with the reassurance that local health officials had authorised the ship for landing.
Public officials could not quell the public’s fear of coronavirus, however. MSC’s announcement that its sick crew member had Influenza A and not COVID-19 did not stop Cozumel residents from taking to social media and then to the island’s port to protest the ship’s arrival.
Local media reports indicated a small group of protesters had gathered at Cozumel’s Punta Langosta port Wednesday evening, shouting ‘Get out! Get out!’ at the MSC Meraviglia, awaiting landing offshore.
MSC Cruises reported the Meraviglia had berthed in Cozumel, Mexico, around 9am on Thursday, and that crew were awaiting local health officials to board the ship.
Around 2:30pm Thursday, MSC Cruises posted on Twitter, “Health authorities earlier today boarded #MSCMeraviglia. Results from the testing will take from a few to 12 hours. The ship will wait alongside in Cozumel. Once she gets clearance to disembark, she will stay in Cozumel through to the end of tomorrow, Friday, 28 February.”
Cozumel Mayor Pedro Joaquín Delbouis told the press that a medical convoy from the Secretariat of Health had been sent to board the ship and would analyse the patient in question. Any discrepancy with the earlier testing results, he said, would result in denial to disembark.
By Thursday evening, none of the passengers had been permitted to disembark. Posts by passengers on social media indicated frustration and showed tourists queued in long lines, awaiting permission to leave the ship.
“We’re waiting on the response from authorities. People are impatient. We’ve been in reception for three hours,” posted Twitter user @ReVidegaray around noon on Thursday.
In a press conference earlier Thursday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the country “could not act in an inhumane manner” towards the cruise ship passengers in Cozumel.
“Regarding the cruise ship, it is being allowed to dock. Those in the ship might disembark. The people on this cruise were denied entry at two ports,” Lopez Obrador said, referring to the landing denials in Jamaica and Grand Cayman.
“We gave instructions for an inspection to be done and that it be allowed to land. We cannot act in a discriminatory way. They will comply with the sanitary norms, but we cannot close our ports, nor close our airports, nor act in an isolating manner or reject those coming to Mexico.”
Quintana Roo’s Secretary of Health, Alejandra Aguirre Crespo, reassured the public once again in a press conference Thursday afternoon, “There are no cases of coronavirus on the cruise ship.”
Aguirre Crespo indicated there were now two patients on the ship with respiratory infections and that health officials were working to determine the exact type of infection in each patient.