Vietnam province reprimanded for turning away cruise ship over coronavirus fears

By Viet Tuan   February 16, 2020 | 09:28 pm PT
Vietnam province reprimanded for turning away cruise ship over coronavirus fears
Italy's Aida Vita cruise liner floats at sea. Photo courtesy of Aida Vita.
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has admonished Quang Ninh Province authorities for turning away passengers who came on a cruise ship to Ha Long.

Italian vessel Aida Vita, operated by AIDA Cruises, was scheduled to dock in Ha Long Town, home to UNESCO world heritage Ha Long Bay, last Thursday but was refused permission for its passengers to disembark due to fears they could be carrying the Covid-19.

Warning other localities not to repeat this act, Dam said while they need to strictly implement immigration and quarantine procedures with respect to foreign visitors and vehicles coming from epidemic-affected areas, they must ensure these do not affect tourism and business activities.

Following the decision by authorities, the cruise ship decided to cancel the entire trip to Vietnam, which would have taken it to Da Nang (February 15), Nha Trang (February 17) and Ho Chi Minh City (February 18).

Vu Duy Vu, deputy general director of Saigontourist Travel, a leading tour operator, said this is a great loss to the country’s tourism industry since cruise passengers are always big spenders. "Some travel companies suffered heavy losses since they had made plans to receive the passengers guests."

Nguyen Quang Thang, general director of Tictours International Travel Company, which was scheduled to receive the tourists aboard the vessel in Nha Trang, said: "While the tourism industry actively promotes Vietnam as a safe destination and seeks ways to attract international tourists, refusing the Aida Vita permission to dock in Ha Long will affect the industry’s reputation."

The ship’s passengers were 95 percent German, and there were no Asians on board, Thang noted. 

It had departed from Bali, Indonesia, on January 17, and visited nine ports though none in mainland China, the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, or Hong Kong.

Aida Vita then docked at Laem Chabang Port in Thailand on Friday night and health officials boarded it on Saturday morning to examine passengers before allowing them to disembark, a Thai Marine Department spokeswoman said.

Quang Ninh's decision to turn away the cruise vessel came amid rising fears after 355 passengers on board cruise ship Diamond Princess were found to be infected by the new coronavirus.

It had visited Chan May Port in Thua Thien-Hue Province on January 27 before docking at Ha Long International Cruise Port a day later.

Diamond Princess, operated by Princess Cruise under British-American Carnival Corporation & Plc., was placed under two-week quarantine on arrival at Japan's Yokohama City on February 3 after dozens of passengers tested positive for the Covid-19.

Recently MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corporation’s Holland America Line, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, was turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, and Thailand over fears some on board may be infected by the virus that killed 1,775 people, almost all of them in China.

After floating at sea for nearly two weeks, the vessel was finally allowed to dock at a Cambodian port Thursday. Later on, an American passenger reportedly tested positive for the virus.

So far, Vietnam has recorded 16 cases of Covid-19 infection, 11 in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, three in Ho Chi Minh City and one each in Khanh Hoa and Thanh Hoa provinces in the central region.

Seven patients have been discharged from hospital so far, including a Chinese father-and-son duo, a Nha Trang hotel staff member and four workers returning from training in Wuhan City.

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