US & World

Coronavirus: Grand Princess cruise ship waits off California for virus tests

A helicopter hovers above the Grand Princess cruise ship, 5 MarchImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Coronavirus test kits were delivered to the ship by helicopter

A cruise ship carrying 3,500 people is waiting off the coast of California while tests for coronavirus are carried out on dozens of them.

One passenger died and at least four others became infected on a previous voyage by the ship, the Grand Princess.

Test kits were delivered by military helicopter on Thursday as the vessel sat off San Francisco.

The US has now recorded about 200 cases and 14 deaths as the global struggle with the virus continues.

Signing a $8.3bn (£6.4bn) emergency spending bill to combat the virus on Friday, President Donald Trump insisted there was no reason to panic amid the growing outbreak and deepening concern.

“Calm, you have to be calm,” he said. “It’ll go away.”

“In terms of cases it’s very, very few.”

More than 92,000 cases have been recorded worldwide, with 80,552 in China, where the virus originated. China also accounts for the vast majority of deaths – 3,042 to date.

Stocks in Asia and the UK fell sharply on Friday as investors continued to worry about the broader economic effects of the virus.

Why is the cruise ship under such scrutiny?

Californian Governor Gavin Newsom has refused to allow the ship to dock until its passengers are properly assessed. Test results are expected later on Friday.

There are 142 Britons among those aboard the ship, which is returning from a voyage to Hawaii after a trip to Mexico last month.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Grand Princess, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, is being held off the Californian coast

A man who sailed on the Grand Princess to Mexico died of coronavirus on Wednesday. The 71-year-old from the Sacramento area had underlying health conditions, officials say.

Two other passengers from that voyage are in hospital with the virus in northern California while two Canadians who recently sailed on the ship tested positive after returning home.

Another US passenger from the Mexico voyage, Judy Cadiz, said she and her husband had fallen ill after returning but had not given it much thought until learning of the death.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption‘I received death threats for having coronavirus’

Now they cannot get a straight answer about how to get tested, she was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

“They’re telling us to stay home, but nobody told me until yesterday to stay home,” she added.

“We were in Sacramento, we were in Martinez, we were in Oakland. We took a train home from the cruise. I really hope that we’re negative so nobody got infected.”

Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, saw a dramatic outbreak while being held in quarantine in Japan last month. Six people died, with 621 infected.

Both ships are operated by the same company, Princess Cruises.

The US Congress rushed to approve the bumper emergency aid package to combat coronavirus, with the White House acknowledging the country lacks enough test kits.

Nine of the 12 fatalities were from the same nursing home in Seattle, Washington State, but infections have been reported across 20 states.

What is happening elsewhere?

  • Egypt records 12 coronavirus infections aboard a cruise ship on the Nile
  • The Vatican, Serbia, Slovakia and Cameroon report their first cases
  • Iran’s official death toll rises to 124 with 4,747 confirmed cases nationwide
  • Islamic Friday prayers are cancelled in towns and cities across the Middle East
  • Israel and the Palestinian Authority put the city of Bethlehem under quarantine after seven people are diagnosed with coronavirus
  • Italy’s death toll rises to 148 after 41 new fatalities on Thursday – the country’s highest single-day toll so far

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