More than 6,000 people are trapped on a cruise ship in Italy after a woman was suspected of having the coronavirus

Passengers on the Costa Smeralda cruise ship docked at the Civitavecchia port in Italy. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images
  • More than 6,000 people are thought to be trapped on a cruise ship at a port in Italy after a 54-year-old Chinese woman was suspected of having the highly contagious coronavirus.
  • The woman, from Macau, and her travelling companion were placed in isolation in the Costa Smeralda’s shipboard hospital.
  • The ship has a capacity for more than 6,500 guests.
  • Friday was the supposed to be the end of a seven-day round-trip cruise from a port near Rome.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

More than 6,000 passengers are trapped on a cruise ship at an Italian port near Rome while doctors determine whether two passengers have the coronavirus.

The Costa Smeralda, operated by Costa Cruises, arrived in Civitavecchia, Italy, northwest of Rome, on Friday. It was supposed to be the end of a weeklong cruise that departed Civitavecchia on January 23, according to the company.

“A 54-year-old female Chinese national from Macau was placed in isolation in Costa Smeralda’s shipboard hospital last night along with her travelling companion, in accordance with health protocols,” a statement from the cruise company said. “As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage clinical conditions.”

Several passengers posting to Twitter said they initially didn’t know why they weren’t being allowed to leave the ship. Eventually they started reading the news online to find out.

One Twitter user who appeared to be on the vessel posted photos of people sitting on the floor with their suitcases with the caption, written in Italian, “judge this yourself.” When he first posted photos, at about noon local time, he said he didn’t know why they were trapped on the vessel.^tfw

Another user, with the name Marina Guerrero, posted a video from inside.

The cruise ship’s itinerary included La Spezia and Savona in Italy; Marseilles in France; and Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain. Costa Smeralda, Costa Cruises’ first cruise ship powered by liquified natural gas, entered service only last month. The ship has a guest capacity of 6,554 and 1,678 crew members.

A local news outlet reported that Costa Cruises had cancelled nine cruises from China as a precautionary measure.

“It is our utmost priority to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew,” the statement said. “The company is at complete disposal of the health authority and their indication will be strictly applied. Costa Cruises continues to apply relevant national policies and epidemic protocols, as per World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indications.”

One New York-based public health official said that he hopes that when leaders are making the call on whether to quarentine they are balancing public safety with people’s right to liberty and freedom. Draconian measures surrounding the coronavirus can force people into hiding when they should be seeking help from medical professionals, said Dr. Eric Cioe Pena, Director of Global Health at Northwell Health.

“We dont want to overdo it,” Dr. Eric Cioe Pena, Director of Global Health at Northwell Health. “There have been examples of nonevidence based quarantines.”

During the ebola outbreak, for example, one nurse was forced to stand outside in the cold at Newark International Airport while she was examined for the disease, he said. “I get worried when we hear about entire cruise ships being quarentined,” he said.

“We havent seen any deaths outside of China,” Cioe Pena said. “We dont want people to go into hiding. We want people to go to health officials at the first sign that they’re sick.”

Claudia Romeo assisted with translation in this article.