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File: The Caribbean Princess Cruise Ship docked in Port-of-Spain. It has now been blocked from entering the country.

Luxurious cruise ship Caribbean Princess which was scheduled to dock in Port-of-Spain today has been debarred from entering our shores due to dozens of sick passengers and crew on board the vessel.

The move was instituted by the Immigration Division and Chief Medical Officer as a precautionary measure.

This came hours after Barbados’ chief medical officer Kenneth George confirmed that the vessel was denied clearance to dock at the Bridgetown Port yesterday, following reports that several passengers had fallen ill after boarding the ship.

A document which local health, immigration and tourism workers received yesterday was leaked to the T&T Guardian stated that the chief medical officer and chief immigration officer have given “directives” to deny the arrival and clearance of the Caribbean Princess at the Port of Port-of-Spain on Monday.

“This decision was made in unanimity due to cases of illness such as acute gastroenteritis and influenza-like illness currently affecting an unusual amount of passengers and crew on board. While there are no confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus on board, our authorities have made this decision as a precaution given the circumstances,” the document stated.

Charles Carvalho, general manager of St James-based Carvalho Agencies—the shipping agent for Caribbean Princess in a telephone interview with Guardian Media yesterday confirmed that the ship has been prevented from docking here.

“Based on the situation not getting any better and seeing other ports taking precautions, the hotel and immigration authorities here have denied arrival of the ship in Trinidad tomorrow.”

Carvalho said 3,069 passengers are on the ship which set sail from Fort Lauderdale on February 2.

The vessel was listed to dock at five ports during the 14-day cruise—three of which were Barbados, Trinidad and Aruba and sail back to its place of origin at Fort Lauderdale. Carvalho said the vessel docked only at three ports. Within one week-from February 2-9, Carvalho said 269 passengers fell ill on the cruise.

“The number has been changing as the majority of them (passengers) have been removed from isolation and just do not show symptoms any more. The figures have been fluctuating.”

Carvalho said this was the first time Trinidad authorities had to block a vessel from docking here since the announcement of the Coronavirus.

The number of confirmed cases has risen to at least 27,100 in China’s Hubei province alone, with the global number of infected now at more than 37,000.

He said it was better to be safe than sorry.

“Many ports around the world have restrictions…they have been taking action for cases like these. So, it is not something that is currently affecting us and other Caribbean islands but ports around the world with other cruise ships.”

Carvalho said many cruise liners have strict procedures and precautions in place for passengers. Before a passenger boards a vessel they must fill out a questionnaire, subject themselves to a thermal screening at the port, while anyone who has travelled from China in the last 30 days will not be allowed to travel on a ship.

“There is a lot of new requirements by our authorities that we have to provide when a ship comes here. So it is a whole process that we have to follow now just to safeguard our country.”

Carvalho said before the end of this month, they expect five more ships to arrive in T&T.

“We have two cruises here on Carnival Monday…one in Tobago and one in Port-of-Spain.We would not be surprised in the coming days if stricter measures are taken.”