Coronavirus checks on cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour

The Norwegian Jewel docked in Circular Quay this morning. Courtesy: Nine

Passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour are being checked for potential coronavirus symptoms before disembarking.

The Norwegian Jewel is currently docked at the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay, having arrived at 6am.

New procedures have been introduced by NSW Health to prevent any potential coronavirus carrier from disembarking unchecked, the Port Authority confirmed.

“What that means is that NSW Health staff are going on board to screen somebody who has any flu-like symptoms,” a Port Authority spokesperson said.

“That procedure is obviously taking longer than it would normally.”

Reports had emerged that a passenger on the ship is being tested for coronavirus, but Norwegian Cruise Line said that is incorrect.

“There are various false, inflammatory media reports regarding the ship,” a spokesperson said.

“There is absolutely no truth to those stories. We have no guests with any respiratory-related illness on board. The vessel remains in operation, and all guests onboard are in good health.”

The cruise company confirmed that a rigorous cleaning and disinfection of the ship was conducted aboard after a few guests “experienced a stomach-related illness”.

“To mitigate any impact of this rare occurrence, we implemented stringent sanitation procedures,” the spokesperson said.

But while there was no coronavirus threat on board, a statement from NSW Health said a passenger was being tested for respiratory illness.

“One person has been tested for respiratory illness on board with results expected this afternoon,” a NSW Health spokesperson said.

“As is routine in these circumstances, testing was done as a precaution as there is no indication that the person is at particular risk of CoVID-19 (coronavirus), and at this point there is no concern for other passengers or people in and around Circular Quay.”

NSW Health noted that some passengers disembarking from cruise ships often require medical management.

“None had been in China in the previous 14 days and there was no outbreak of any disease on board.
“There were three routine medical transfers, none related to respiratory illness.”

NSW Health described the health checks aboard the Norwegian Jewel as a “routine assessment”.

This particular cruise was intended on ending today, and the ship is scheduled to pick up new passengers and depart for Burnie in Tasmania later.

It had previously visited the New Zealand ports of Dunedin, Akaroa, Picton, Wellington, Gisborne and Tauranga, after the cruise began in Auckland on February 4.

It is also scheduled to visit Melbourne, Dunedin, Akaroa, and Wellington before returning to Sydney.

There have been no reported cases of coronavirus in New Zealand.

The ship has a maximum capacity of 2376 guests and 1069 crew.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. The name comes from the Latin word “corona,” meaning a halo or crown, which the viruses resemble when viewed under a microscope.

What are the symptoms?

The viruses can make people sick, usually with symptoms similar to a common cold, such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat, headaches and fever, which can last for a couple of days. For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, the virus can cause pneumonia or bronchitis.

How did it start and where did it come from?

The current outbreak is believed to have started from people who picked it up at a fresh food market in the city of Wuhan in central China. Some of the first infected patients ran businesses in the market, meaning it’s possible they were infected by animals there. The market has been suspended.

Can I catch it and how does it spread?

A Chinese government team has confirmed this coronavirus is spread by human-to-human transmission. Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Is there a cure?

There is no specific treatment. Most of the time, symptoms will go away on their own. There is no vaccine to protect against this family of viruses, at least not yet.