Coronavirus: Cruise ship hit by outbreak bound for Oakland port
At least fourt Irish people among those stranded on vessel off California coast
Passengers and crew on a giant cruise ship held off the coast of San Francisco were awaiting the results Friday of tests to determine if any of the 3,500 people on board have the new coronavirus. File Photograph: Handout/Carolyn Wright /AFP via Getty Images
The cruise ship Grand Princess, held at sea and barred from returning to San Francisco last week due to a coronavirus outbreak aboard the vessel, has been directed to the nearby port of Oakland, the cruise line said on Saturday, presumably to be placed under quarantine.
The ship, carrying some 2,400 passengers and 1,100 crew members, is due to reach Oakland, across San Francisco Bay from its original home port destination, on Monday, with the arrival time yet to be determined, Princess Cruises said in a statement.
A small number of Irish people people are on board.
The late-night announcement came after four days of uncertainty surrounding the vessel – the ship has been linked with at least four coronavirus cases from an earlier voyage – and the fate of 3,500 people returning from a cruise to Hawaii.
Princess Cruises, a unit of the world’s leading cruise operator, Carnival Corp, said its information about the ship’s revised destination came from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is coordinating the operation with state and local officials.
The timing of the statement, just minutes after an earlier notice, suggested that arrangements remained in flux.
The company’s first notice said the Grand Princess was to “proceed to the Port of Oakland on Sunday to begin disembarking guests who require acute medical treatment and hospitalisation.”
It went on to say those passengers would be “transported to medical facilities in California. ”
Citing information from the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the earlier statement also said that all remaining passengers would get off the ship on Monday.
Passengers from California, it said, would then go to a “federally operated facility within California for testing and isolation, while non Californians will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states.”
“Crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship,” it said.
The update issued several minutes later said the “CDC has just informed us that further modifications of the plan are necessary” and that the ship would arrive in Oakland on Monday instead. No mention was made of the quarantine details described in the previous notice.
Among those onboard is Co Donegal native Pat Kelly, who is the second officer on the cruiser.
Mr Kelly is from Moville and only left the town a month ago to return to sea having spent Christmas and the New Year there. He trained at the National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy, Cork.
A local source said Mr Kelly has been in touch with his family and friends in Co Donegal to let them now that he is in good health.
“He is fine and he has been in touch by phone to reassure his family of that,” the source said.
“Pat is young but he is a very experienced seaman and has been at sea all of his life. He has risen through the ranks quickly. This is just another challenge he will take on board and get on with it.”
The predicament of the Grand Princess is reminiscent of the Diamond Princess cruise liner, also owned by Carnival, which was quarantined off Japan in February and was for a time the largest concentration of coronavirus cases outside of China, where the outbreak originated. About 700 people aboard that ship became infected, and six have died.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The consulate in San Francisco is in touch with local authorities and monitoring the situation closely.
“It is the department’s policy in providing consular assistance that commentary is not given on individual cases and the people or families involved.” –PA/Reuters