TAIPEI – Taiwan authorities confirmed Friday that a cruise ship off Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, that was not allowed to dock in Japan due to coronavirus concerns will be allowed to return to Keelung, near Taipei, according to local media.
The approval came a day after Taiwan’s ban on cruise ships took effect amid the mass outbreak on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama.
Speaking to reporters at the Central Epidemic Center on Friday morning, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung implied that an exception was made for the vessel because about 90 percent of its guests are from Taiwan.
However, all guests and crew will be required to undergo thorough health screening upon arrival, he said.
“Even if there is only one person who tests positive for the coronavirus, the infected person will be taken off the ship for medical treatment and the rest quarantined on the ship for at least 14 days,” Chen said.
Among the more than 1,709 passengers aboard Super Star Aquarius, some appear to have recently traveled to China, according to reports.
The Central News Agency reported that the ship left Keelung on Tuesday for a four-day round-trip cruise. It was scheduled to make a port call in Naha on Wednesday and Thursday and return to Keelung on Friday afternoon.
But the Super Star Aquarius was turned away by Japan over concerns about the spreading outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China. The ship is now scheduled to arrive back in Keelung on Saturday, the report said.
The Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined for at least two weeks, stopped at Keelung on Jan. 31. According to Taiwanese media, many passengers visited temples and the Palace Museum and ate at hotels, prompting disinfection measures at various places.
Japanese officials said on Friday that the number of diagnosed coronavirus cases on that ship had tripled to 61.
Also on Friday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Center announced that the transport link between China’s coastal province of Fujian and Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu will be suspended effective Monday.
On Thursday it imposed a blanket ban on Chinese travelers entering from the mainland.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Taiwan remained at 16 on Friday.
In mainland China, however, the number of infected has surpassed 31,000, with 636 confirmed deaths, the Chinese government said Friday.
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