TAIPEI – A cruise ship that was turned away from Japan this week over coronavirus fears returned to Taiwan on Saturday, with everyone on board being tested for the virus.
Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung boarded the Super Star Aquarius as soon as it docked at the northern port city of Keelung around noon, leading a team of medical staff to perform screening of the 1,738 passengers and 776 crew members.
Most of the passengers are Taiwanese, while 237 Chinese are among the crew, Chen said. According to the ship and media reports, 41 of the guests have recently traveled to China, where the virus is spreading.
Chen told a news conference before boarding the ship that all passengers could go home later in the day and self-monitor their health conditions afterward provided no one tests positive for the virus.
“However, 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,” he added.
The results of the health screening are expected to come back later in the evening, he said, adding that preliminary examinations showed that no passenger had a fever.
The ship, which left Keelung on Tuesday for a four-day round-trip cruise, was denied permission to dock in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.
Although Taiwan on Thursday implemented its own ban on cruise ships from calling in the island’s ports, Chen indicated Friday that an exception was made for the vessel due to the high proportion of Taiwanese passengers.
Also Saturday, the Central Epidemic Center announced one more confirmed case, bringing Taiwan’s total to 17.
The new case is a man in his 20s who traveled with his parents to Italy via Hong Kong between January and February.
On Thursday, Taiwan imposed a blanket ban on Chinese travelers entering from the mainland.
In mainland China, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 722, with more than 34,500 people infected, Chinese health authorities said Saturday.