KEY POINTS

  • Cruise ship companies are rushing to ensure the health and safety of their passengers against the Wuhan coronavirus
  • They're screening passengers and refusing boarding rights to passengers that have a fever
  • Refunds are being given passengers that have a fever or have been diagnosed with the virus

The raging and deadly outbreak of the "Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)," also called the Wuhan coronavirus, spreading throughout China is also disrupting the global cruise line industry, leading frightened passengers thousands of miles away to cancel their trips out of fears of contagion.

On Wednesday, Chinese health authorities revealed 17 deaths due to the virus, which has no cure, with 547 hospitalized. The Novel coronavirus has also sent people to hospitals in the United States, South Korea and Japan. As of Thursday, there are two confirmed cases of Novel coronavirus in Hong Kong.

It's epicenter is the Chinese city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, with a population of 11 million persons. All the fatalities, and most of the hospitalized, are in Wuhan.

Astro Ocean Cruises, China's newest cruise ship company, on Wednesday said it's offering full refunds to passengers that have a fever or have been diagnosed with the virus. For groups departing from Wuhan, refunds are also available if guests cannot join the trip due to “pneumonia-related management measures.”

The company also said medical personnel unable to travel are also eligible for refunds. These people also have the option to change their sailing to a future date. In September 2019, Astro Ocean Cruises received its first ship, the MS Piano Land, which serves on the Southeast and Northeast Asian cruise routes.

Florida-based Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the third-largest cruise line in the world by passengers carried, is now screening passengers departing from Chinese ports. NCL said it won’t let anyone traveling from Wuhan, or who has been in the city over the last 30 days, to board. It’s also denying boarding for guests with a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Italian cruise ship company, Costa Cruises, issued a statement saying it's working with port authorities to strengthen passenger screening procedures for guests that may have a fever. It's also modifying cruise policies that will allow full refunds for guests with the virus or who have a fever.

In Wuhan, the city government Wednesday announced the suspension of all public transport in the city starting at 10:00 a.m. local time Thursday. The ban affects long-distance buses, trains, subways and ferries and will start Thursday in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Wuhan's airport and railway stations will also be “temporarily closed” for departing passengers and no reopening date has been announced. The city's health command center also urges residents not to leave Wuhan unless they have a “special reason." All persons in the city are required to wear face masks outside their homes.

Lots of people in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, are wearing masks Lots of people in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, are wearing masks Photo: AFP / -