Ship connected to COVID-19 cases in Cayman, Puerto Rico

Costa Luminosa leaves sick passengers in Spain, France and Italy

Tender boats transfer passengers from the Costa Luminosa on 29 Feb. in Spotts, Grand Cayman.
Tender boats transfer passengers from the Costa Luminosa on 29 Feb. in Spotts, Grand Cayman. - Photo: Alvaro Serey

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Carnival’s Costa Luminosa, operated by Costa Crociere, has left a trail of alarm and, in several Caribbean and European countries, patients sick with coronavirus. So far, the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have been connected to the ship. Now, the Costa Luminosa is causing alarm in Europe, where the ship has evacuated passengers, many of them confirmed ill, in the Canary Islands, France and Italy.

Here is a timeline of Costa Luminosa’s impact in recent weeks.

24 Feb. – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Costa Luminosa departed with passengers from Fort Lauderdale.

27 Feb. – Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

The Costa Luminosa was listed on the Amber Cove port schedule as planned on 27 Feb. and appeared to land without problems or note by the press. The next day, the Dominican Republic rejected another cruise ship, the Braemar, for fear of coronavirus. The Braemar has since confirmed cases of coronavirus aboard the ship and passengers later evacuated in Cuba.

28 Feb. – Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The Costa Luminosa encountered trouble in Jamaica, where Italian passengers were barred from disembarking the ship in Ocho Rios. Jamaica’s Health Minister Christopher Tufton said the decision fell in line with travel restrictions at the time, barring entrance of those with recent travel history to China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore or Iran.

Tufton said that health checks on the ship indicated four people on board were showing flu-like symptoms.

“We therefore requested additional information about those four persons, and based on their travel history or where they were in the last 14 days, the health authority took the decision that they would not represent any risk around the coronavirus,” the health minister said in the Jamaica Gleaner.

In response to Jamaica’s decision to bar the Italian passengers, Carnival threatened to withdraw Jamaica and the Cayman Islands from itineraries and assured that no one aboard its ships had coronavirus.

“Our CEO Arnold Donald had met with leaders from the Caribbean on Sunday to let them know we needed more certainty, and based on the absence of certainty, we implemented our decision,” a statement from Carnival read.

This announcement came after both islands had already denied landing of the MSC Meraviglia over coronavirus concerns.

29 Feb. – George Town, Grand Cayman

All 2,100 passengers from the Costa Luminosa were allowed to disembark in Spotts, Grand Cayman, on 29 Feb. Public health officials in Cayman said they were not aware of any medical issues with the ship. Port officials said they had no reason to withhold entry to any passengers on board.

“There is no need for any public fear, alarm or panic,” said Joey Woods of the Cayman Islands Port Authority at the time. “There is good collaboration and cooperation between the cruise lines, ourselves, Customs and Border Control and Public Health.”

It would later be revealed that a 68-year-old Italian man was transported to Health City from the ship that day with cardiac problems. That man would become Cayman’s first confirmed coronavirus case.

2 March – Roatan, Honduras

Costa Luminosa caused a stir when it docked in Roatan, according to local press.

“The ship’s arrival has generated diverse commentary among the island population who are fearful, since [its home port] Genoa is a port city and capital of the Liguria region, where there have been recorded cases of coronavirus,” La Tribuna of Honduras wrote on 2 March.

The local health authority in Roatan reassured that the ship had not been to Italy in three months and that there was no virus on board.

“The declaration of health previously supplied by the cruise line has been reviewed. It indicates that neither the crew nor the passengers present respiratory cases or suspicion of coronavirus,” the health authority wrote.

“During the last two weeks, according to the destination itinerary, there have been no arrivals in places with recorded cases of coronavirus.”

3 March – Cozumel, Mexico

While Cozumel appeared on the Costa Luminosa itinerary, it does not appear on the Puerta Maya port schedule for any day in March. The ship was not mentioned in local press.

The Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism denied that Carnival would stop bringing ships to Cayman. “In fact, the Ministry continues to work collaboratively with cruise line partners and are adhering to established medical protocols with respect to the docking of cruise ships and landing of cruise ship passengers,” a ministry statement read.

5 March – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Costa Luminosa picked up new passengers in Fort Lauderdale.

8 March – San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Costa Luminosa immediately caused a splash in Puerto Rico. A 68-year-old Italian tourist was removed from the ship with symptoms that appeared to resemble COVID-19. Her 70-year-old husband accompanied her. They would later became Puerto Rico’s first confirmed cases.

Other passengers from the ship were allowed to disembark as normal, according to El Nuevo Día of Puerto Rico.

9 March – St. John’s, Antigua

The ship was denied entry when it continued on to Antigua over coronavirus fears.

“The Ministry [of Health] issued a press release alluding to ‘incompleteness and inconsistency’ in the vessel’s maritime health declaration,” the Antigua Observer wrote.

A Ministry of Health statement read, “The Ministry has noted that the declaration did not include timely notification of a passenger who had been on board with symptoms of an infectious disease.”

The patient who was offloaded in Cayman on 29 Feb. is tested for coronavirus on this day, 10 days later.

12 March

The Cayman Islands Public Health Department confirmed that one person on island had tested positive for coronavirus.

“The patient is a visitor who was transferred from a cruise ship for a critical cardiac issue,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez. “The patient was doing well but subsequently developed breathing difficulties, was isolated and a test taken has confirmed is suffering with the novel coronavirus.”

It was still unknown at this time that the passenger was from the Costa Luminosa.

A Facebook post from Hazard Management Cayman Islands that day said, “Government confirms a single imported case of Coronavirus from a cruise passenger that was medivacked off a cruise ship that did not offload visiting tourists in the Cayman Islands.”

The ship did, however, offload tourists on its arrival on 29 Feb.

13 March

Health officials confirmed to the Cayman Compass that the passenger had arrived on the Costa Luminosa.

Health City Cayman Islands released more information about the positive case:

“He underwent cardiac treatment, and began his recovery with no COVID-19 symptoms.

“Over 30 medical professionals and staff members who would have come into contact with the patient during this time are being quarantined and tested for the virus. …

“After six days of his primary treatment, he developed a dry cough. Although he had no other COVID-19 symptoms – such as other flu-like complaints or a fever – based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, a sample was taken and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for testing.”

In addition to other measures, the Cayman Islands government announced it would ban cruise ships for 60 days, starting 16 March.

Costa Crociere, the operator of Costa Luminosa, announced it would be suspending its cruises until 3 April.

Meanwhile, the man and woman who disembarked the Costa Luminosa in San Juan, Puerto Rico on 8 March both tested positive for coronavirus. They became Puerto Rico’s first confirmed cases, alongside a local man.

14 March

The coronavirus patient at Health City died at 4:40am as the result of complications of the virus.

Staff on board the Costa Luminosa cruise ship cover their mouths with
napkins as they deliver drinks on board earlier this month, in a photograph
taken by a passenger. – Photo: Courtesy Wendy Chase
15 March – Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands

The Costa Luminosa unloaded sick passengers in the Spanish Canary Islands at the Santa Cruz de Tenerife port.

“The Costa Luminosa cruise ship left three affected people on island yesterday and three of their companions in relation to the coronavirus,” reported Tenerife’s El Día newspaper on 16 March. Two people were subject to an emergency evacuation the news organisation indicated.

Individuals were transported to two different clinics. No other passengers or crew were allowed to disembark the ship.

The ship also bypassed a planned stop in Malaga, Spain.

18 March – Marseille, France

A Marseilles port spokesman told the New York Times that the ship had been authorised to dock in the port city but no one on board would be allowed to disembark due to health concerns.

The Miami Herald reported that dozens on the ship were now sick with an unconfirmed illness. “At least 24 crew members on board the ship are classified as sick and are isolated, according to ship logs obtained by the Miami Herald, and at least 50 passengers are classified as sick, or are roommates of passengers who are classified as sick,” the newspaper wrote.

19 March

French media reported that 640 passengers, including French, Americans and Canadians, were released from the ship in Marseille. Seventy-five passengers were tested for the virus. Thirty-six of those tested positive and one 70-year-old passenger from Switzerland was hospitalised.

Many released passengers boarded planes in attempts to return home. In Atlanta, AJC news reported that a plane carrying Costa Luminosa passengers had landed, carrying three individuals who had already tested positive and 13 sick individuals who had not yet been tested.

21 March – Savona, Italy

The Costa Luminosa arrived in Italy, one of the nations hardest hit by coronavirus, with 84 passengers in isolation, the Italian press reported. The ship, which docked in Savona, was greeted by ambulances waiting at the dock and passengers began to be unloaded, with Italians taking priority. Local press indicated that 718 passengers and 868 crew members who remained on board were expected to disembark.

In Puerto Rico, the department of health announced that one of the ship’s passengers who tested positive for coronavirus, an elderly woman, had died.

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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