Cruise Ship Passengers at Réunion Island Threatened By Violent Protests Amid Coronavirus Concerns

March 02: Passengers of the Princess Cruises liner have been met by violent protests in Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean due to fears over coronavirus.

Police at Pointe des Galets used teargas on the protesters who had tried to block the cruise ship, which had already been turned away from nearby Madagascar.

The Sun Princess docked early on Sunday with 2,000 passengers on board. It is owned by Princess Cruises, the same company that owns the Diamond Princess which quarantined by Japanese authorities with 3,700 on board in Yokohama after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19.

About 30 protesters had gathered at the north-western port to demand health checks of tourists to avoid the virus taking root on their island. The locals tried to prevent visitors leaving the port, forcing the police to intervene. The protesters threw pebbles and bottles at the security forces, who responded with teargas.

By this time, some 300 other ship passengers had already left the port by bus or taxi on different island excursions.

“Of course we are not against the arrival of tourists, they are necessary for the development of our economy. We just want to be sure that there is no risk of the coronavirus propagating,” protester Yannis Latchimy said.

An agent of the regional health authority was at the port to offer face masks and leaflets with coronavirus prevention measures, but disembarking tourists were not seen having their temperature taken. None took the proffered mask.

“We don’t know if these people are sick – they were not tested. It is very dangerous,” said Latchimy.

On 13 February, the Sun Princess was turned away from Madagascar on the grounds that 14 days had not passed from its previous stopover in Thailand, one of the countries with a coronavirus outbreak. The virus’s incubation period is 14 days.

The ship then stopped over in South Africa before heading for Réunion, and is set to leave for Mauritius on Sunday evening.

No coronavirus cases have been reported in Réunion.

Source: AFP via The Guardian

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