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Sri Lanka screens cruise ships for Coronavirus

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is screening passengers arriving in cruise ships, and taking protection measures, officials said as coronavirus infected persons were found on a liner in Japan.

“We are using a hand-held thermal scanner to monitor people disembarking from the cruise liners,” Health Ministry National Coordinator for Disaster Preparedness Hemantha Herath said.

“We are using all the measures that were taken in the airport, but we are not monitoring the passenger’s whereabouts because they leave overnight,” he said.

Those arriving through the airport from China or has recently been to China have to provide their itinerary. The medical officer of health of the area will visit them each day for a health check.

Japan on Wednesday identified at least 10 new cases of coronavirus after it quarantined a cruise ship carrying at least 3,711 off its coast.

On Thursday, the infected count doubled to 20.

The vessel was quarantined after three former passengers who disembarked in Hong Kong was tested positive for the virus.

Health Services Acting Director-General Lakshman Gamlath said health officials have confirmed that a cruise ship will arrive with 2,000 passengers at the Colombo port and all of those passengers will be examined the same way arrivals at the Bandaranaike International Airport are examined.

However, the ship’s doctor is also expected to give a report on the health condition of passengers and crew to the port before docking as standard procedure, he said.

Most of Sri Lanka’s cruises are on the Dubai-Singapore and the Cochin-Male routes, with a majority of passengers being Europeans.

President of Sri Lanka Institute of National Tourist Guides Mahesh Priyadharshana said travel agents handling cruises were requested to provide masks and sanitizer to tourism support workers, which was fulfilled.

Sri Lanka began implementing intensive measures against the coronavirus from January 23. Cruise ships for 2020 started arriving from January 28.

Sri Lanka also has ships calling at the port every day, where sailors can get ashore and leave.

“There are no specific guidelines given to cargo ships docking at the port,” Herath said.

“To develop a specific guideline there should be an identified risk whereas Bird Flu, H1N1 influenza had a many guideline mainly regarding livestock transportation,”

Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka from cruises have typically been below 2 percent of the total, but tripled to an all-time high of 3.6 percent or 85,886 tourists in 2018.

Excursionists, tourists who do not spend 24 hours in Sri Lanka, reached the second highest of 186,862 persons in 2018, just below a peak experienced in 2015.

Cruise arrivals have been affected following the Easter Sunday bombings.

The novel coronavirus, has so far infected over 28,000 in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), with 563 reported dead. Majority of the infected are in Wuhan, a major city China’s Hebei Province.

Another 200 cases have been reported across 20 countries, with a death reported in Hong Kong.
(Colombo/Feb06/2020)

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