Cruise ship denied entry to Malta over coronavirus fears

The Maltese government denied permission for a cruise ship to enter its ports on Friday over coronavirus fears.

“The Government of Malta and MSC Cruises have reached a mutual agreement that, exclusively on the occasion of today, the cruise liner MSC Opera will not enter Malta’s port,” the government said in a statement.

“This decision has been taken following public alarm raised by misleading information given by a local media outlet through a story riddled with partial truths and erroneous details,” it said, adding the government and MSC Cruises decided to re-route the cruise ship to “avoid further concern among the Maltese public.”

Local media Malta Today reported on Thursday that the ship, with over 2,000 people on board, which had gone into self-quarantine in Greece after a former passenger was diagnosed with coronavirus upon his return home, was due to dock in Malta on Friday.

Following the news, an online petition was launched to try to stop the ship from entering. The doctors’ and nurses’ unions issued a statement on Friday saying they would order their members to strike if the ship was allowed to enter.

The MSC Opera was scheduled to make a stopover in Malta after its normal route was interrupted by Turkey’s decision to block all cruise ships from docking in its ports. The ship went into temporary self-quarantine in Greece but was given the all-clear by Greek health authorities to continue its journey without restrictions.