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Coronavirus cruise scare leaves 7,000 stuck on board

Updated:

Today, thousands of passengers have been barred from disembarking a cruise ship docked in Civitavecchia, a port city near Rome, while two passengers undergo testing for Wuhan coronavirus. Six thousand passengers and 1,000 crew members are aboard the Costa Crociere ship Costa Smeralda, which had just arrived from Palma de Majorca, Spain, CNN reports. They will remain there until the passengers both test negative for the virus.

One of the passengers, a 54-year-old woman from Macau (a region on the south coast of China), came down with a fever, although the other, her husband, has not displayed symptoms. Italian public broadcaster RAI and news agency ANSA said that both passengers, who arrived in Milan from Macau on January 25, have been quarantined separately in the hospital section aboard the ship.

Samples from the couple have been sent to Rome’s Spallanzani hospital, which specializes in viruses and infectious diseases, for testing, the Guardian reports. They are scheduled to receive results afternoon local time today, January 30, per ANSA, CNN reports.

“The couple’s cabin has been isolated and they are in with the doctors. We’re a bit worried of course,” an unnamed passenger told ANSA. “No one is getting on or off the ship apart from the doctors. This holiday risks ending in a nightmare.”

One passenger tweeted what appears to be a photo from the ship, whose caption translates roughly to: "I'm on board, we're losing our shit."

In total, there have been 7,819 cases of Wuhan coronavirus and 170 deaths, per CNN. All 31 provinces and regions in China have reported coronavirus cases. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated, has been placed on lockdown. Several countries are evacuating their citizens from the city, and many major airlines are cancelling flights to and from parts of China. On January 30, Russian state media reported that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed an order to shutter the country’s border with China.

The virus responsible for the outbreak, known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is thought to have emerged in a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, pointing to the possibility that it spreads from animals to humans, according to the CDC. But more and more people haven’t been exposed to these markets, indicating it can be transmitted from person to person.

For now, it remains uncertain how easily 2019-nCoV is spreading between people, and for how long it can do so. CNN reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on January 30 to decide whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.

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