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“DO NOT GO ON CRUISE TRIPS” says Canada. Are they still welcome to visit though?

Photo: The Port of Halifax is expecting calls by 203 cruise ships and 350,000 passengers starting April 11

PortandTerminal.com, March 10, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – At a federal level, the Canadian government could not clearer on its policy regarding cruise travel. “DO NOT GO ON CRUISE TRIPS” the country is warning its citizens.

In a press conference Monday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said, while she had previously “asked Canadians to think twice about going on cruise ships,” now the message is unequivocal.

“Today the Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending that Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel due to COVID-19.”

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has warned Canadians yesterday to “avoid all cruise trip travel due to COVID-19”

Dr. Tam’s warning comes as Canada prepares to repatriate 237 Canadians aboard a cruise ship set to dock in California on Monday. “The virus can spread quickly onboard cruise ships, due to the close contact between passengers,” Dr. Tam said.

READ: Expect 4.8 million virus hospitalizations/ 480k dead in US – American Hospital Association (AHA) leaked slide

The Canadian government’s website is also warning cruise passengers that if they do decide to go on a cruise, don’t count on Canada footing the bill to bring them back home if they get sick.

Canadians who choose to voyage on a cruise ship should also be aware that they may not be offered the opportunity to return to Canada on a government-organized repatriation flight, or could be responsible for the costs of repatriation travel.

Government of Canada website

Here on the ground in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Cruise passengers disembarking from a ship
The Port of Halifax is expecting 350,000 cruise passengers on 203 ships to call on the city starting April 11th.

Here in Halifax, the first cruise ship is due to arrive on April 11th* when Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Norwegian Star” arrives at the Port of Halifax from New York City.

Fun fact. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo just declared a State of Emergency on the weekend as the number of coronavirus cases there skyrocketed. As of today there are 173 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York and 27 deaths.

READ: State of Emergency declared in New York as coronavirus spreads

While there are no cases yet of coronavirus in Halifax, the city is expecting 203 cruise ship visits carrying approximately 350,000 cruise guests this season. Lane Farguson, spokesperson for the Port of Halifax confirms that there have been no vessel cancellations so far.

Mr. Farguson also reiterated his previous statement that the Port of Halifax is in frequent contact with Canadian public health authorities, is taking their direction from the Public Health Agency of Canada and “…will act appropriately as the situation continues to evolve”.

The Port of Halifax is in a difficult position. They are not infectious disease experts and rely on the direction of Transport Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, who’s boss is Dr. Theresa Tam.

And as of yesterday, Dr. Tam is very clear on one point. “DON’T GO ON CRUISE SHIPS.”

But what about the ones that are coming to visit?

We spoke with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage to find out the city’s position on the fast-approaching cruise season.

“We love the cruise ship industry here in Halifax” he said. “But that is secondary – public health is paramount”, the Mayor emphasized. ‘This will be dictated by public health” he said and recommended that we contact the office of Dr. Rob Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The department is declining to speak with you (PortandTerminal.com) about their preparations to deal with the incoming cruise ships in Halifax this season

Spokesperson for Nova Scotia’s Department of Health

So that’s exactly what we did. After advising Dr. Strang’s assistant of the purpose of our call and the fact that we had been in touch with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and the Port of Halifax, we were told that someone would get back to us.

A while later we were contacted by a spokesperson for Dr. Strang and were told that “the department is declining to speak with you (PortandTerminal.com) about their preparations to deal with the incoming cruise ships in Halifax this season”

In summary

So there you have it. Canada’s Public Health Agency is telling Canadians unequivocally, “DON’T GO ON CRUISES”.

The Port of Halifax says that it is taking its direction from Canada’s Public Health Agency, but that there are no cancellations to planned cruise ship arrivals at this time.

READ: Coronavirus cruise ship docks at Port of Oakland

Halifax’s Mayor says that “this will be dictated by public health” and that the city is taking direction from Dr. Rob Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (amongst other authorities).

I am not being alarmist, but surely with the obvious signs that a very aggressive viral illness is spreading the world, a plan, some communication to the local populace, and an indication that our local government is actually thinking ahead should be expected.

Jane Barbour, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in “LETTER: HRM silent on virus”, Chronicle Herald, March 9, 2020

And finally, Dr. Strang’s spokesperson says that they are busy and decline to speak with us about their preparations to deal with the incoming cruise ships.

Feel reassured? Neither do we.

*CORRECTION: In our article of March 3 “COVID19: On April 21 the 1st cruise ship is due at the Port of Halifax. What’s the plan?” we should have stated that the first cruise ship arrives at the Port of Halifax on April 11, not the April 21st. We apologize for this error.

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