Asia-Pacific News

Almost 2,000 passengers held on cruise ship in Hong Kong amid coronavirus scare

Key Points
  • The World Dream ship is operated by Genting's Dream Cruises.
  • Several crew members reported symptoms associated with the illness.
Hong Kong authorities are keeping passengers and crew members under quarantine on the cruise ship World Dream.
Geovien So | SOPA Images | Getty Images

Almost 2,000 tourists are being held on a cruise ship in Hong Kong and being tested for the new coronavirus after several crew members reported symptoms associated with the illness.

Passengers aboard the World Dream ship, operated by Genting's Dream Cruises, are being barred from disembarking at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal until test results from three suspected cases are returned.

The ship arrived in Hong Kong from Taiwan on Wednesday with 1,871 passengers aboard. The vast majority were from Hong Kong, but several passengers traveled to join the cruise from other countries, including Australia, the U.K. and Canada.

Three people from mainland China who had previously been on the World Dream between Jan. 19 and 24 had been diagnosed with the virus, according to Reuters. However, Dream Cruises confirmed on Wednesday that no one currently on the ship was from mainland China.

Around 30 crew members reported "various minor symptoms" such as coughs and sore throats during health screenings upon arrival in Hong Kong, according to Dream Cruises. While one crew member was diagnosed with flu, temperature screenings did not confirm fever in the remaining 29 crew members.

However, three crew members who said they had felt feverish have been sent to public hospitals for further testing for the coronavirus.

Samples from crew members who reported other symptoms have also been taken to medical facilities for precautionary testing.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Dream Cruises said local health officials were administering health checks for the remaining passengers and crew on board.

"Due to this situation, no passengers or crew will be allowed to disembark from World Dream until the test results from the affected crew members have been confirmed," the company told CNBC.

"Dream Cruises is cooperating fully with all health authorities and is complying with all official guidelines and instructions to safeguard the health of its guests, crew and the general public."

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Wednesday that anyone entering the territory from mainland China would be quarantined for 14 days. She also said that two cruise terminals would be closed to reduce the flow of people entering Hong Kong.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hong Kong reached 21, with the territory reporting its first death from the illness on Monday.

The World Dream is the latest in a string of cruise ships to be caught up in the coronavirus outbreak.

Princess Cruises said Tuesday it would keep 3,700 people in quarantine on a ship for 14 days, after nine  passengers and a crew member tested positive for the virus in Yokohama, Japan.

Some 6,000 tourists were held on a cruise ship in Italy on Thursday over fears a Chinese passenger was infected with coronavirus. The passenger was eventually diagnosed with the common flu.

China's National Health Commission said that as of Tuesday night, 24,324 cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed and 490 people had died in the country.