MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A cruise ship with more than 6,000 people aboard was given permission on Wednesday to dock in Mexico after passengers were denied entry in two Caribbean ports due to fears, later disproven, that a crew member was infected with the coronavirus.
Global cruise operator MSC Cruises said that Mexican authorities approved its ship MSC Meraviglia to dock in Cozumel. The vessel, which started a tour of the western Caribbean from Miami, was due to arrive late on Wednesday or Thursday.
Jamaica and Grand Cayman had earlier barred passengers of the ship from disembarking on fears that one crew member, who has since been diagnosed with common seasonal flu, might have been infected with the coronavirus.
Cruise ships have been in the spotlight after confirmed cases of the coronavirus on the British-registered Diamond Princess approached 700 with three deaths since the ship docked at a Japanese port on Feb. 3.
A document from Mexico’s Health Ministry reviewed by Reuters said the MSC Meraviglia had been granted “free pratique,” or permission to enter the Cozumel port based on the assessment that it presented no risk of spreading disease.
It was not clear whether the ship’s passengers would be allowed to disembark in Cozumel.
MSC Cruises said the person with the seasonal flu was isolated for security measures but that no other cases of type A influenza have been discovered on board - and no coronavirus infections have been reported on any of its ships.
“The crew member who was diagnosed with common seasonal flu is in a stable condition, receiving anti-viral treatment and medication, and is now free of fever and nearly recovered,” it said.
Alejandra Aguirre, health secretary of Quintana Roo state, where the Caribbean island of Cozumel is located, said, “We have information regarding the patient and fortunately it is not a case of coronavirus.”
Coronavirus, believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, most in China.
However, more than 30 countries have since reported cases with major outbreaks in South Korea, Iran and Italy.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Diego Ore; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Ana Isabel Martinez and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Drazen Jorgic, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman