A NUMBER of cruise line operators have cancelled services to Chinese ports due to the threat of novel coronavirus. While in Australia, the government has issued advice for transport operators and travellers.

Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas scheduled for departure on 27 January was cancelled. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said, “The decision was made to fully co-ordinate with disease prevention and ensure the health and safety of passengers and crews”.

Costa Cruises stopped its Chinese operations until 4 February, including the Costa Atlantica, Costa Venezia, Costa Serena and Costa neoRomantica.

MSC Cruises, Astro Ocean Cruise and Dream Cruises have also taken similar precautions.

MSC and Costa said they would fully refund the cruise cost to passengers or will book a cruise on a later date.

Costa Venezia was quarantined when the ship arrived at the Shenzhen port in China. The ship had approximately 5,000 people on board, including 150 people with the previous history of visiting the Hubei province.

Authorities said that 13 passengers on board exhibited the symptoms of the virus. Medical professionals have been sent onto the ship to carry out assessments.

Last week, cruise line operators increased their passenger screening procedures and issued travel advisories to ensure that their passengers are not affected.

China also enforced transport restrictions to different cities, including Wuhan, to contain the spread of the virus.

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Australia’s Department of Agriculture has issued information sheets for border staff that explain what Australia is doing to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

The Department of Health is providing additional communication material for travellers at all international ports. This material informs travellers of the symptoms of 2019-nCoV and encourages them to report to biosecurity officers if they are experiencing symptoms while in the port environment if arriving from China.

The Department is “closely monitoring this situation in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the states and territories”, and will keep border agencies informed.

Ports Australia CEO Mike Gallacher said, “While authorities report the threat of the coronavirus in Australia remains low, the outbreak comes as a chance for the nation’s maritime industry to reinforce the strength of biosecurity measures along our borders.

“We have been in contact with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and ensured the correct messaging reaches our ports quickly so they can keep their essential daily operations running smoothly and safely with some additional considerations.

“The maritime industry always makes biosecurity a priority and the coronavirus doesn’t change that, but just affirms its importance for an island nation which thrives on tourism and trade.

“I urge our maritime workers to remain vigilant, heed the advice from authorities, and stay safe while they keep Australia running,” Mr Gallacher said.

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