A group of protesters on a remote Indian Ocean island violently tried to prevent cruise-ship passengers coming inland out of fear that they contained the novel coronavirus, despite there being no confirmed cases on board.
The Sun Princess was allowed to dock at the French territory of Réunion Island on Sunday, but passengers departing the ship by bus were met with stones and bottles thrown by about 30 protesters, local news agency Imaz Press Réunion reported.
There are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus onboard the Sun Princess, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The island’s health agency gave the cruise passengers upon their arrival but did not take their temperatures, which further angered residents and prompted them to block the port gates, Imaz Press Réunion reported.
The Sun Princess is operated by Diamond Cruises, the company which operates the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off Japan for two weeks in February. 700 passengers contracted the virus onboard.
It had been carrying some 2,000 passengers from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK to Réunion Island, AFP reported. Three hundred of them disembarked the vessel on Sunday and went on excursions around the island, Imaz Press Réunion said.
It was previously refused docking in Madagascar on February 13, AFP reported.
A bus carrying 50 people from the ship into the mainland were attacked by the protesters, who lit a fire on the road into town, Imaz Press Réunion reported.
Police later fired tear gas at the protesters, eventually dispersing them. They made one arrest, the local news agency reported.
Here’s a video showing the scene:
“Of course we are not against the arrival of tourists in Reunion, they are necessary for the development of our economy,” one of the demonstrators, Yannis Latchimy, told Imaz Press Réunion.
“We just want to be sure that there is no risk of the spread of the coronavirus.”
The island is located in the Indian Ocean and has around 900,000 residents, and no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The scene echoed that seen in Ukraine in mid-February where a violent mob threw bricks at buses of evacuees from Wuhan, China, heading to a quarantined hospital.
The Sun Princess left Réunion Island on Monday, and was refused entry in Mauritius later that day, Imaz Press Réunion reported.