WHO gives go ahead to cruise travel, says risks manageable

Passengers of the MS Westerdam disembark in Cambodia after 2 weeks out at sea. (AP pic)

GENEVA: Cruise ship travel remains a “manageable risk” for now, and it doesn’t make sense to recommend a ban on it, the World Health Organization said, even as the return home of 3,000 travellers from two coronavirus-stricken cruise ships fuels fears of further contagion.

“People say we should steer clear of cruise ships, or steer clear of airports or steer clear of certain ethnic groups,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press briefing Monday at the organisation’s Geneva headquarters.

“We have to be really careful” of such suggestions.

“We need an approach to managing risk that allows us to continue to operate as a society.”

The number of reported cases of coronavirus from two Carnival Corp cruise ships, the Westerdam and the Diamond Princess, continues to raise questions about the effectiveness of containing the virus in such environments.

Japanese authorities earlier Monday said 99 more people from the Diamond Princess tested positive for coronavirus.

The vast majority of cases in the virus outbreak are in China, and people shouldn’t rush to judgment, Ryan said.

“If we’re going to disrupt every cruise ship in the world on the off chance that there might be some potential contact with some potential pathogen, then where do we stop?” he said.