Cruise ships to Pa Enua banned

Monday March 02, 2020 Written by Published in Health
Passengers from MSC Magnifica were allowed to visit Rarotonga yesterday despite calls to ban cruise ships amid coronavirus fears. PHOTO: Tokerau Jim/20030108 Passengers from MSC Magnifica were allowed to visit Rarotonga yesterday despite calls to ban cruise ships amid coronavirus fears. PHOTO: Tokerau Jim/20030108

Locals expressed alarm as passengers from luxury cruise liner MSC Magnifica were transported to Rarotonga hospital yesterday.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that they received four passengers from the ship; three were admitted to Rarotonga hospital for further treatment or overnight observation.

One was a 75-year-old who suffered a cardiac event, another was a 77-year-old with bacterial pneumonia, and the third admission was a 60-year-old with a skin rash. The ministry said there was no patient with suspected coronavirus.

The Magnifica remained off Rarotonga overnight, after being banned from its scheduled visit to Aitutaki today.

Government has cancelled all cruise ship visits to the Pa Enua (outer islands) over the next two months amid the worldwide coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

This comes after Prime Minister Henry Puna travelled to Aitutaki on Friday for crisis meetings with local leaders calling for a ban on cruise liners.

However visitors, including those travelling from Italy – the European nation worst hit by coronavirus – were yesterday allowed in Rarotonga.

The recommendation to cancel all cruise ship visits to the Pa Enua over the next two months came from National Health Emergency Taskforce. It was endorsed by the Prime Minister.

A statement from Prime Minister’s Office late last night said the Taskforce reviewed the outcome of discussions held in Aitutaki between the Prime Minister and members of his delegation with the Island Government and community.

Te Aronga Mana, traditional leaders from Aitutaki, and the island council stood by the wishes of the people to ban the ship, at an urgent meeting attended by Henry Puna and senior government staff on Friday.

Tekura Poo Bishop, the Mayor of Aitutaki, yesterday confirmed that the ship which is carrying over 3000 passengers and crew would not stop over at the island. MSC Magnifica was scheduled to visit the island today.

“The people (of Aitutaki) have spoken, and the leaders of our country understand the people’s interest,” said Bishop.

“With respect, we directed our decision to the Prime Minister and this was officially communicated to him on Thursday.”

He said concerns were raised by the people of Aitutaki at the council meeting regarding Magnifica, that had left Italy last month. Italy is on the 16-country travel ban put out by Cook Islands government. As of yesterday, there were 1694 confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy and 34 people have died.

PM’s Office said the risk assessment of MSC Magnifica suggested low public health risk, but the National Health Emergency Taskforce acknowledged the community’s concerns, as well as fragile health systems, infrastructure and vulnerable populations in the Pa Enua.

It said the Ministry of Health officials conduct a robust risk assessment process for every cruise ship prior to their arrival.

Health secretary Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said protecting the health of the Cook Islands population is their priority.

“Important in the risk assessment is the Maritime Declaration of Health which provides details of the ship and sanitation certificate, passengers and crew information, previous ports visited, and health questions regarding any condition that poses a public health risk,” Dr Herman said.

Early yesterday morning locals at Avatiu harbour were alarmed to see an ambulance transporting a patient from the liner to Rarotonga hospital.

The passenger was brought into the port on board the ship’s tender, and was transferred to hospital for medical attention.

An unnamed source said the unwell passenger had heart problem, not associated with the Covid-19 virus.

Numerous attempts to contact agencies, including Health, for comments went unanswered.

MSC Magnifica, which is on a world tour, is carrying 3223 passengers and 1038 crew. The ship left Italy last month and has stopped over at 19 destinations before arriving here for the first time.

The liner is one of the favoured cruise ships for Italian tourists and is carrying a significant number of Italians on this trip. Its sister ship MSC Meraviglia was last week turned away by both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

MSC Cruises has announced sweeping measures to ensure the ship remained free of the virus, including denying boarding to anyone from high-risk areas including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore and central northern Italy.

5 comments

  • Comment Link MJR Wednesday, 04 March 2020 19:20 posted by MJR

    Unrelated but Magnifica is a Musica Class ship and Meraviglia is a Meraviglia class ship so the pair are not sister ships - both are MSC ships but not sister ships #justsaying

  • Comment Link Panetuku Rae Tuesday, 03 March 2020 06:55 posted by Panetuku Rae

    Good morning, very sorry to hear this sad news for Italy and especially the Cook Islands as I am a New Zealander (NZ). Hopefully the cruiser and passengers depart without further health issues-perhaps those who are ill will need to fly back to their homelands when they are stronger. NZ is always concerned for the wellbeing of our people in the Cooks, so kia kaha. Good on you for tak0ing a stance against international travellers (to ban cruisers) as your health and wellbeing is ours too. NTR the risk isnt worth it.

  • Comment Link Cameron Scott Monday, 02 March 2020 22:07 posted by Cameron Scott

    A rather crucial comma missing here.

  • Comment Link Maurice Boaza Monday, 02 March 2020 17:05 posted by Maurice Boaza

    I were surprised to hear, why the cruiser ship is even allowed in Rarotonga.
    One with commonsense would be thinking, the risk is too high as we only have a small population and as we all know our health system is not up to scratch.
    So Henry Puna and the enua leaders. Do what’s right, to save our people. Aitutaki enua is showing you the right way.
    Good on you Aitutaki enua for putting life first.

  • Comment Link N.T.R Monday, 02 March 2020 13:51 posted by N.T.R

    The Prime minister gave the thumbs up to banned all cruise ships to the outer islands why didn’t he do that to Rarotonga when Rarotonga is the main port, why took the risk??

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