Passengers held on cruise ship in New Zealand over coronavirus fears

Princess Cruises is the same company which operates the Diamond Princess, which docked in Japan, and the Grand Princess, which docked in California. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Passengers held on cruise ship in New Zealand over coronavirus fears

  • There are 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew on board of the cruise liner
  • Princess Cruises said cruises ongoing as of March 17 would end early at the most convenient location

WELLINGTON: Passengers on the Golden Princess cruise liner were barred from disembarking at a New Zealand port on Sunday because of a suspected coronavirus case on board, health officials said.
There were 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew on the boat docked at Akaroa near the South Island city of Christchurch, according to the port’s cruise ship schedule.
New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said three passengers have been quarantined by the ship’s doctor.
One of them has developed COVID-19 symptoms and is being treated as a suspected case.
“All on board are not being allowed off the ship until results are known,” Bloomfield said.
The health scare arose just three days after Princess Cruises announced it was suspending voyages worldwide for two months in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company is allowing cruises within the last five days of their journey to complete the trip, but said cruises ongoing as of March 17 would end early at the most convenient location.
Princess Cruises has already seen two of its vessels hit by the virus and quarantined: the Diamond Princess, which docked in Japan, and the Grand Princess, which docked in California.
Bloomfield would not be drawn on what would happen to the Golden Princess until results of tests on the three passengers were known on Monday.
The Golden Princess was already in New Zealand waters before Wellington on Saturday banned all future cruise ship arrivals until June 30 under strict new coronavirus related regulations.
A New Zealand public health specialist, Brian Cox from the University of Otago, said if coronavirus was confirmed on the Golden Princess then the remaining passengers should not remain on board.
The decision to quarantine 3,700 passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess in Japan was heavily criticized after more than 700 people eventually tested positive for the virus.
“The Japanese experience was a sad lesson that keeping people aboard such a ship just spreads the infection through a large number of people, and the boat becomes, basically, an incubator for spread of the disease,” Cox said.
Removing passengers from the ship and placing them in self-isolation for two weeks was the safest option, he added, and it would be “inhumane to just turn it around and send it back.”
On Saturday, New Zealand said international travelers would have to self-isolate on arrival for 14 days, with similar measures also announced by Australia on Sunday.


India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

Updated 39 min 43 sec ago

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

  • Development follows US President’s mediation in the dispute
  • Stand-off began in the first week of May when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake

NEW DELHI: After weeks of a border stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, New Delhi on Thursday announced it would resolve the matter diplomatically.

“India is engaged with China to peacefully resolve the matter. At the same time we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The development follows US President Donald Trump’s mediation in the dispute. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump said, “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”

The stand-off began when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake in the first week of May. According to Indian reports, Chinese troops set up dozens of tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A few days later, a Chinese patrol was stopped by Indian guards near the Nathula Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim. A troop build-up in the Ladakh and Sikkim areas followed the incidents. Reports suggested that 10,000 Chinese soldiers were sent to the border.

While New Delhi was still blaming China last week for “hindering” Indian patrols at the border, its Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that “the two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels.”

Foreign policy experts say that in the absence of any concrete information it is difficult to comment on whether any resolution is actually taking place.

“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Geopolitical interests of both countries are at the center of the conflict,” Kondapalli said, “For India Ladakh is linked to its sovereignty. India has so many ongoing projects in that area. For China its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes not far away from the region and connect to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. Besides, once American troops leave Afghanistan and a new regime takes over Kabul this might have its implications in the region.”

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, said that from a geopolitical perspective both sides need stability at this time and the current situation on the border is not helping either of them.

“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc.,” he said. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.”