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CRUISE SHIP

Thousands of tourists confined to cruise ship in Italy over feared coronavirus cases

Over 6,000 tourists have been confined on a cruise ship off the coast of Italy on Thursday over fears of two suspected cases of the deadly coronavirus on board.

Thousands of tourists confined to cruise ship in Italy over feared coronavirus cases
Coastguards in front of the Costa Smerelda cruise ship in Civitavecchia port. Photo: AFP

The vast liner was placed on lockdown while two people were tested for the deadly coronavirus.

Samples from the two passengers, a Chinese couple, were sent for testing after three doctors and a nurse boarded the Costa Crociere ship in the port of Civitavecchia, north-west of Rome, to tend to a woman running a fever, local health authorities said.

READ ALSO: How concerned should you be about the coronavirus in Italy?

Costa Crociere confirmed that its Costa Smerelda ship, carrying some 7,000 people including the crew, was on lockdown.

It said it a 54-year old woman from Macau “was placed in solitary confinement in the on-board hospital last night with her travel companion”, and was following instructions from the health ministry.

The Costa Smeralda, the company's flagship and the fifth-largest cruise ship in the world, “came from Palma de Mallorca and is currently engaged in one-week cruises in the western Mediterranean,” it said.

The Costa Smerelda is the fifth-largest cruise ship in the world. File photo: Costa Press Office

It had been due to sail for La Spezia in north Italy late Thursday, but would be detained in the Civitavecchia port near Rome “until we have an update on the health tests,” said port captain Vincenzo Leone.

The couple flew in to Milan from Hong Kong on January 25, before getting on the cruise, according to Italian media reports.

One Italian passenger who said he was on board the ship near Civitavecchia tweeted at midday on Thursday: “We're blocked on board the Costa ship without knowing the (official) reason.”

“The couple's cabin has been isolated and they are in with the doctors,” an unnamed passenger was quoted as telling ANSA news agency.

“We're a bit worried of course. No-one is getting on or off the ship apart from the doctors. This holiday risks ending in a nightmare”.

Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Italian national health institute, said that all suspected cases in Italy so far had turned out to be false alarms, but the health service was “ready should any cases of infection emerge”.

China reported its biggest single-day jump in novel coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as global fears deepened with at least 15 countries confirming infections.

The World Health Organization, which initially downplayed a disease that has now killed 170 in China, was preparing to meet Thursday to decide whether to declare it a global emergency.

 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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