6,000 passengers held on cruise ship in Italy amid concern over coronavirus

An estimated 6,000 passengers and crew are being held onboard the Costa Smeralda while medical teams run diagnostic tests on a 54-year-old Chinese woman and a traveling companion who have been quarantined, the Italian cruise line confirmed to USA TODAY. 

The quarantine comes amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China. 

The woman and her traveling companion reportedly boarded the ship on Jan. 25 in Savona, Italy, and she subsequently developed fevers and difficulty breathing, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.

The Italian-flagged Smeralda is currently docked at the port of Civitavecchia, located about 50 miles northwest of Rome, according to the cruise ship tracking website Vesselfinder. Its itinerary also took them to Marseilles, France and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.

Costa Smeralda, which launched in 2019, is the Italian cruise company's biggest ship to date, with room for more than 6,000 passengers. (Photo: Costa Cruises)

Because the ship is under a sanitary protocol, none of the passengers or crew onboard are being allowed to disembark while medical teams run tests, the person familiar with the situation said. It will likely take a few hours for the medical team to confirm the test results. 

Costa, which is owned by Carnival, has already canceled nine different sailings to China.

Since Jan. 20, there have been 7,700 cases of coronavirus reported worldwide, and 170 people have died from the illness, according to Chinese officials.

So far, there have been five confirmed cases in the United States: two in California and one in Illinois, Arizona and Washington State, respectively.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the list of countries outside of China with confirmed cases includes  Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Last week, the World Health Organization classified coronavirus, which is officially known as 2019-nCoV, as an emergency in China but declined to designate it a world-wide emergency. The Switzerland-based group is scheduled to meet again Thursday to re-evaluate the situation.

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