Around 7,000 passengers and crew are stuck on a giant cruise ship in an Italian port amid fears that a Chinese tourist on board may have contracted coronavirus.
A husband and wife, reportedly from Hong Kong, have been put in isolation on the Costa Smerelda, which might have Britons on board, after the couple came down with a fever and breathing problems.
Specialist doctors are conducting tests on the 54-year-old woman from Macau.
The results of tests are expected to be known later today. If the woman is found to be infected, the passengers and crew could face a two-week quarantine aboard the cruise liner.
The couple arrived in Italy on January 25 and boarded the ship in the port of Savona in the north of Italy that same day, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said.
The couple have been placed in solitary confinement as doctors from the Italy’s National Institute for Infectious Diseases examined them to find out if they have the coronavirus, which has killed at least 170 people in China and infected thousands of others.
An unnamed passenger told ANSA news agency that the couple’s cabin had been ‘isolated’ and they were ‘in with doctors’.
They said: “We’re are a bit worried of course. No one is getting on or off the ship apart from doctors. The holiday risks ending in a nightmare. We hope to get off soon.”
No one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were carried out to see if the pair had the potentially deadly coronavirus, the spokesman said.
He said it might take “a few hours” before the situation became clearer.
The company had activated all necessary “health protocols” and its priority was to protect the health of the other passengers.
Photos on social media showed passengers, with their bags packed, looking fed up on board the ship.
Worried passenger, Gaby, tweeted: “The planned excursions to Roma today was cancelled.
“They don’t let us off the boat(sic).
“There is no official information.”
Civitavecchia’s mayor Ernesto Tedesco said: “The situation on the suspected case of coronavirus at the port of Civitavecchia is under the careful control of all the bodies involved, including the local authority.
“The health and maritime authorities have immediately taken action and the protocols envisaged are being followed and we will be constantly monitored.”
On Thursday, countries began isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 170 people with more than 7,800 infected globally.
Infections have been reported in at least 19 other nations, with 104 confirmed cases. India confirmed its first case on Thursday, as did the Philippines.
Airlines around the world announced they were cutting flights to China, and Hong Kong was suspending rail travel to and from the mainland at midnight.