India denies entry to cruise ships on virus fears
India has banned all foreign cruise ships from its ports because of the coronavirus, with one European vessel turned away from Mangalore in the south at the weekend, officials said Monday.
Cruise ships are seen as a fertile breeding ground for the deadly virus, with more than 700 cases and six linked deaths from the Diamond Princess held off Japan last month.
A sister ship, the Grand Princess, was due to dock in California on Monday with 21 confirmed coronavirus infections among 3,500 people on board.
The operator of MSC Lirica, which was turned away from Mangalore on Saturday, said that none of the 1,145 crew or 1,430 passengers on board had a flu-like illness or associated symptoms.
"There is no one under quarantine on board nor under any other type of precautionary health measure," MSC Cruises spokesman Robin Roothans told AFP by email, adding that all medical protocols were being followed.
The ship called in as planned in Muscat on Saturday and in Khasab, Oman on Sunday, and on Monday was heading for Abu Dhabi, Roothans added.
"In view of the coronavirus threat the central government has decided that no cruise ship from any foreign destination will be allowed to call on Indian ports with immediate effect till 31 March 2020," Mangalore port said in a statement.
MSC Cruises is a Swiss-based European company employing over 30,000 staff globally and selling cruise holidays in 69 countries.
It is the world's largest privately-owned cruise line, according to its website.
More than 3,500 people have died worldwide so far from the epidemic which has infected 110,000 people in 99 countries and territories since it was first reported in China late last year.
India, the world's second-most populous country after China, has reported 43 cases, prompting the government to issue daily health warnings.
Many conferences and some celebrations for Tuesday's major Holi festival have been cancelled in order to avoid mass gatherings.