Cayman’s port leaders have issued assurances that, amid the global coronavirus outbreak, all health protocols are being followed, especially when it comes to cruise and cargo ships touching local shores. The announcement comes as Cayman is set to receive 31 ships – 24 cruise and seven cargo – this week.
“For more than a decade, Public Health, Customs and Border Control, the Shipping Agents, the Cruise Lines and the respective Government Ministries have worked collaboratively with the Port Authority to prevent and contain the spread of infectious diseases in the maritime domain and to the Cayman Islands in particular,” a Port Authority of the Cayman Islands statement said Friday.
The assurance comes as several cruise ships were placed under quarantine in recent weeks after passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Most recently, the Grand Princess cruise ship had been held off the coast of California after 21 people on board tested positive for the coronavirus. The ship is expected to dock in the Port of Oakland on Monday.
Last month, Cayman denied entry to the MSC Meraviglia, which was carrying 4,488 passengers and more than 1,600 crew. It had been scheduled to arrive in George Town, but the Cayman Islands government refused to allow the ship to dock after a crew member was placed in isolation with flu-like symptoms.
Travel restrictions have been implemented locally limiting visitors with travel history to 13 countries, including China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
Cayman port officials said there is no need for fear once the public understands and knows what to do if faced with the virus.
“We are doing our best to prevent it, but if not, together we are prepared,” the Port Authority statement said, noting there had been outbreaks of the Norwalk virus and “never has there been a known case of it spreading to the local community”.
The Port Authority added, “Cayman Public Health’s guidelines have been implemented and followed during the SARS, MERS and Ebola virus disease epidemics and the Cayman Islands remained safe. We would like to assure the public that we are still working together as the world faces the threat and spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.”
The Public Health Department has published guidelines, which the Port Authority said, “we all can follow in an effort to slow the arrival of COVID-19 to our shores, or to contain it when it comes”.
The Port Authority added in the statement, “Cayman’s Public Health officials evaluate each circumstance and advise on the appropriate action to take, which can range from preventing the individuals from disembarking, to preventing the ship from landing.”
It said there are procedures in place within the cruise industry to prevent a potential infection spreading between the ships and the Cayman community, including screening all passengers to determine if they have been to, or passed through, an area impacted by the virus, or if they have been in close contact with people who may have contracted the virus up to 14 days prior to the cruise.
“If they are found to be a potential risk, they and their travel companions are not allowed to travel. Health officials observe the guests constantly, looking for evidence of respiratory or other illnesses (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing). Those with severe symptoms are also not allowed to travel. Should any illness arise while passengers are on a cruise, the information is shared with the Port Authority, Public Health and Customs and Border Control prior to the vessel arriving in Cayman,” the Port Authority added.
Cruise-ship arrivals scheduled for this week
9 March: 6 ships
10 March: 5 ships
11 March: 6 ships
12 March: 5 ships
13 March: 2 ships