Cruise ships are changing itineraries and avoiding visiting Jamaica and Cayman Islands after the Caribbean countries tightened travel restrictions in response to their concern over the potential spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) into the region.
As many as three cruise ships were turned away from Caribbean seaports over the past two weeks, with many countries imposing strict travel restrictions on foreigners visiting their territories.
Cruiseliner Carnival Corp has told passengers aboard two of its ships that it had changed itineraries and that it would not travel to Jamaica and Cayman Islands. The decision came after Jamaica barred Italian citizens from disembarking a ship docked in Ocho Rios earlier this week.
A week ago, Jamaica and Cayman Islands had turned away a cruise ship on suspicion that it carried tourists infected with the virus.
The Jamaican government has defended its decision, with the country’s Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton telling local press that imposing travel restrictions was inevitable.
“These are extreme circumstances that require vigilance. We have a duty to protect the health and safety of the Jamaican people even as we value the cruise industry.” Tufton told Jamaica Observer.
However, other major cruise lines – including Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., and MSC Cruises – have not reported changes to Caribbean itineraries, according to the Maimi Herald.
Tourism employs more than 2 million people in the Caribbean, contributing as much as US$62 billion to the regional economies. With the fear of coronavirus mounting with each passing day, governments in the region are focusing on protecting their people rather than boosting tourism revenue.
Meanwhile, many countries in the region are reporting new cases of the virus. An Italian national has been quarantined in Saint Domingo, the Dominican Republic after he showed signs of possible coronavirus infection. The 62-years-old Italian Italian man had arrived in the country on Feb. 22 without showing symptoms.
Three foreign nationals have already been tested positive to the virus in neighboring Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory in the Caribbean.
In Ecuador, the number of people suffering from the virus jumped to five on Sunday, with the country’s Health Minister Catalina Andramuño confirming five new cases.
Ecuador already had an older woman infected with the virus. All the newly infected patients had contact with the older woman who arrived in the country from Italy.
Elsewhere in Latin America, five cases have been confirmed in Mexico, and two in Brazil.