The cruise ship MSC Meraviglia, turned away by two nations due to fears of a virus outbreak, docked at Mexico’s Caribbean island of Cozumel on Thursday and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said passengers will be allowed to disembark,
López Obrador said Mexico had to act with “humanity” after the ship was refused entry at ports in Grand Cayman and Jamaica.
The cruise line had expressed frustration with the rejections, which came after it reported one crew member from the Philippines was sick with common seasonal flu. It said no passengers had shown evidence of the Covid-19 virus.
“The ship is being allowed to dock and the passengers, those who are aboard the cruise ship can disembark,” López Obrador said, adding that health inspections will be carried out.
“We cannot act with discrimination,” he said. “Imagine if a ship arrived and it wasn’t even allowed to dock, and they were told, ‘Keep going on your way, see where you can dock.’ That is inhuman.”
He added, “we cannot close our ports, nor can we close our airports.”
“Imagine the desperation and everything it implies, almost 5,000 people on a ship and they cannot get off,” he said. “Why such backward attitudes?”
The case of the Meraviglia illustrated the crisis of nerves over COVID-19 virus. Mexico has no confirmed cases and MSC Cruises said the crew member had only common seasonal flu, had been placed in isolation and had “nearly recovered.”
Local media showed a small knot of Cozumel residents near the cruise ship dock demanding that passengers not be allowed to disembark, citing fears about potential contagion or effects on the tourism-dependent economy.
Just minutes after López Obrador spoke Thursday, the governor of the Quintana Roo state, where Cozumel is located, confirmed the ship had docked, but said “no authorization has been given” yet for passengers to disembark.
Gov. Carlos Joaquin wrote that health inspections would have to be carried out first.