A cruise ship carrying over 2,300 passengers will not dock in Malta today as the government explained it was reacting to “public alarm raised by misleading information given by a local media outlet through a story riddled with partial truths and erroneous details”.
The Malta Medical Association and the Malta Union of Nurses and Midwives had threatened industrial action if the MSC Opera docks in Valletta over fears passengers on board could have been infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The ship was previously self-quarantined in Greece after a former passenger contracted the virus. It then made its way to Corfu, where health officials found that none of the passengers or the crew tested positive for COVID-19 and deemed the vessel needed no further health measures.
However, the doctors’ and nurses’ unions warned that it would be irresponsible to allow the cruise ship to dock and, with threats of industrial action looming, the government said it had reached a deal with MSC Cruises for the cruise ship not to enter Malta’s ports exclusively for today.
“This decision has been taken following public alarm raised by misleading information given by a local media outlet through a story riddled with partial truths and erroneous details,” it said.
“It is pertinent to note that according to information received by the Government and medical reviews and clearances granted by other foreign ports the ship has visited, there is no case of Coronavirus on board the MSC Opera which was planned to enter Malta.”
“Despite the established facts, the Maltese Government and MSC Cruises have decided to approve the re-routing of cruise liner MSC Opera so as to avoid further concern among the Maltese public.”
“The Government of Malta appeals for responsibility and maturity in statements made in relation to the outbreak of Coronavirus.”
In a statement, MSC Cruises confirmed the government’s statement and said the Opera’s next port of call will be Messina on Sunday as scheduled.
“This unfortunate situation was caused locally by misinformation that had circulated regarding the medical conditions of the ship,” it said. “In his statement, the Prime Minister [of Malta] also stressed that their review of the ship’s medical records confirmed her clean bill of health and ‘there is no case of Coronavirus on board the MSC Opera’ as also supported by the ship being cleared by local health authorities in each port the ship had called prior to today during this cruise.”
“MSC Opera’s next port of call will be Messina, Italy, on Sunday as scheduled. There are no passengers or crew members currently on board the ship who have or have had any flu-like symptoms. The health and safety of our passengers and crew will always remain our top priority.”