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Cayman has turned away two ships scheduled to call and refused entry to another ahead of a government ban on cruise ships set to take effect to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The ban begins Monday, 16 March.
However, Acting Port Director Joseph Woods told the Cayman Compass Saturday that the decision was taken to cancel two cruise ships that were scheduled for Sunday and deny a third ship that requested entry.
“They all had passengers from the countries on the updated list of banned countries so they were all denied,” Woods said.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, who was locked in various meetings on Saturday, tweeted on his official Twitter account that “there will be no more cruise ship calls until approved by the Cayman Islands government”.
The Port Authority ship schedule webpage has been updated to remove the ships. Woods said the Island Princess and Veendam cruise ships were scheduled for Sunday, but Cayman cancelled its calls. The Mariella Discovery 2 sought permission to call on Grand Cayman but that request was denied.
One cargo ship, the Seaboard Sun, is listed for Sunday.
The cancellations follow McLaughlin’s announcement Friday of an expanded list of countries from which travel is now restricted.
As of Monday, there will be no travel allowed from European Union countries as well as Japan, Korea and Iran.
The UK, US and Jamaica were not included in the list as of Friday, but the premier said more countries could be added in the coming days.
He said “more drastic and radical” decisions will have to be taken to suppress the spread of coronavirus.
On Thursday a 68-year-old Italian man, who was initially transported to Health City Cayman Islands from a cruise ship after suffering a heart attack on 29 Feb., was confirmed as Cayman’s first positive coronavirus case.
He showed signs of respiratory problems days after being treated for cardiac issues, and was put in an isolation ward. On Saturday morning, he passed away. His wife remains in isolation at Health City.
On Saturday, Jamaica banned travel from the UK. US President Donald Trump, also on Saturday, banned travel from the UK and Ireland.
From Monday, all of Cayman’s schools will be closed until 27 April and cruise ships are banned from coming into Cayman for the next 60 days.
Private and public schools, as well as the University College of the Cayman Islands and Truman Bodden Law School will be closed.
Government has also imposed a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more.
Supermarkets, hospitals and pharmacies are the only exemptions from the ban on public gatherings.
Restaurants and other businesses, as well as churches, will be affected.
Batabano and CayMAS carnival have been cancelled.
McLaughlin said workplaces are not considered ‘public gatherings’ but employers would have to make difficult decisions when it comes to the number of staff allowed in the building at the same time and possibly implement shifts or work-from-home policies.
He said the emergency situation could last as long as three months.
“We are in completely uncharted territory,” he said.
“This is like a hurricane that has a three-month duration. It is like preparing for that and trying to deal with the consequences of that,” he added.