People are panicking as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads globally, causing sinking markets, ending travel plans, canceling schools for children, and leaving employers to wonder how to make it more feasible for employees to work from home. Government officials worldwide have intensified their efforts to control the virus. Italy and Saudi Arabia enacted restrictions on travel, Iran is suspending their flights to Europe, and the U.S. Department of State issued a warning regarding traveling by cruise ship. Additionally, many countries are implementing strict screening procedures, denying port entry rights to ships, and preventing passengers from disembarking. The United States is blocking several Princess Cruises ships from leaving or docking in ports in an effort to contain the Coronavirus. Despite these efforts, the virus has already hit two of the company’s voyages onboard the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess.
The first major case of the outbreak was onboard the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan this February after Hong Kong health officials sent an e-mail to a Princess Cruise port representative warning that an 80-year old passenger tested positive for the Coronavirus after getting off the Diamond Princess cruise. According to The New York Times, Japanese authorities and the cruise company decided to quarantine the ship in Yokohama, Japan. Even after identifying a potential problem, the Japanese government’s and the cruise’s quarantine procedures for the Diamond Princess cruise ship have been under question and criticism. After the confirmation of infection, low-level medical protocols were administered instead of an urgent medical reaction because it was assumed the immediate risk from the Coronavirus was minimal as the sick passengers had disembarked. Although the Hong Kong health officials advised the cruise company to take action and for there to be a “thorough environmental” cleaning and “disinfection of the cruise,” only low-level protocols were established. The cruise company was not the only party that ignored medical guidelines. Japanese authorities ignored medical guidelines by leaving potentially exposed passengers onboard during testing instead of taking them ashore.
Cruise ships are an enclosed environment, making them more susceptible to expose people to the virus. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has ordered the Regal Princess to be held off the coast of Florida with thousands onboard. The agency also ordered a no-sail on Saturday for the Royal Princess in Los Angeles. According to the agency, cruise ship environments pose an increased risk of infection. During the month of February, the Coronavirus outbreak in the United States alone increased from 12 to 700 in a matter of weeks.
As the virus continues to spread, the country has entered a new stage in handling the Coronavirus, with containment no longer being an option. Even amid more urgency from health officials, another cruise ship has been hit by the Coronavirus and has been cleared to dock in Oakland, California. On Wednesday, March 4th, the California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency as “the number of positive California cases rises and following one official COVID-19 death.”
The Grand Princess cruise ship docks in the Port of Oakland with a plan for nearly 3,000 people aboard the ship. It has been emphasized that those onboard will not be immediately released to the general public. However, as testing becomes more widely available, the number of infected cases is expected to rise.
In Seattle, there have been reports of schools closing, warnings against group gatherings, and cancellations of events. As communities start seeing more cases of the virus spreading, more thought will be applied as to whether events with large gatherings should be canceled and how to make it more feasible for employees to work from home.
The statement from officials and state of emergency in California is a demonstration of how the country is past the point of containment and must make aggressive efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.
At BoatLaw, LLP, our dedicated attorneys know how to litigate against cruise ship companies and have the experience to confidently handle your cruise ship claim. Our attorneys use our resources to conduct a full investigation into the liability issues in every case. Most of the death cases that have been reported have occurred at nursing homes in the Seattle area, and some of the cases involve passengers of a cruise ship. Coronavirus cases on cruise ships need to be assessed on a case by case basis. Consult with an experienced attorney to find out more information on how to seek compensation and to determine liability for your cruise trip injury/incident.