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Cruise Council relying on US filter to stop coronavirus

Published:Tuesday | February 4, 2020 | 12:30 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Michael Belnavis
Michael Belnavis


Like at the two international airports, provisions are in place to guard against the deadly novel coronavirus entering Jamaica via the nation’s cruise ship piers, a senior shipping authority has said.

Michael Belnavis, chairman of the National Cruise Council (NCC), indicated that besides local vetting of travellers, Jamaican authorities were relying on the robust controls by immigration and health personnel in the United States and elsewhere to red-flag people suspected of having the infection.

The seaports of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Falmouth were gateways to more than 1.5 million cruise ship passengers of the 4.3 million visitors to Jamaica in 2019.

The novel coronavirus, which had its genesis in China, has caused at least 361 deaths and affected more than 17,000 globally.

“The ports in Jamaica have nothing to fear about contracting the coronavirus. All arriving passengers and crew arriving in Jamaica are screened in the United States before boarding,” said Belnavis.

“Passengers who have recently travelled to China are being denied boarding.”

Among the measures implemented locally are the use of fever-scan technology to identify elevated temperature levels.

That assurance gives some comfort to Trelawny residents like Brenton Smith, who said yesterday that Belnavis’ pronouncement gave him a sense of relief.

“I don’t know much about it (the coronavirus), but the fact that it is killing people is cause for concern. As the saying goes, when America sneezes, we immediately catch a cold,” said Smith.

That fear has raised awareness among Jamaicans because coronavirus signs and symptoms are similar to those of the common cold.

The novel coronavirus, which surfaced in Wuhan province in China in late December, may become a pandemic, according to international experts on infectious disease.

“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic. But will it be catastrophic? I don’t know,” Dr Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in the United States, was quoted as saying yesterday.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has said that all was being done to ensure that local healthcare workers were prepared should the coranavirus threaten Jamaica.

“We have trained our border control and border protection health workers. All ports of entry need to be aware and step up their activities in terms of inspection, quarantining and questioning, where necessary,” said Tufton. A ban on travel to and from China was imposed last Friday.

Last week, Dr Marcia Johnson-Campbell, regional technical director of the Western Regional Health Authority, told The Gleaner that the standard screening processes at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay would be imposed, as had been previously established for Ebola, yellow fever, and malaria.