By Colin Packham and Paulina Duran
SYDNEY, February 14 (Reuters). Australian health authorities tested a passenger on board a cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbor for “respiratory disease” on Friday, which worried passengers about the potential for another coronavirus outbreak on board.
The New South Wales government announced that shortly after docking in Sydney on Friday, health officials went on a tour of New Zealand aboard the Norwegian jewel to conduct a routine assessment of overseas passengers.
“There have been three routine medical transfers, none related to respiratory problems,” the NSW Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement. “One person was tested for respiratory problems on board. Results are expected this afternoon.”
The Ministry of Health has neither specified the type of respiratory disease nor explicitly excluded the coronavirus.
The test results were expected later on Friday, with no information about whether the passenger was taken to the hospital. None of the passengers had been to China in the past 14 days and there was no outbreak of illness on board, officials added.
Norwegian Cruise Line said that “a thorough inspection and cleaning and disinfection of the ship and the terminal were carried out” when it docked in Sydney.
The presence of Australian health officials on the ship caused concern among employees and passengers about the initial erroneous reports of a confirmed coronavirus case.
The biggest outbreak of the corona virus outside of China was on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, which had been quarantining thousands of passengers on board for days. Another cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, finally moored in Cambodia on Friday after five countries were refused entry.
Angela Driskell from Indiana, USA, said passengers disembarking in Sydney were three hours late.
“They said that the Australian Health Department should be able to clear the ship and that they would examine all passengers who were experiencing symptoms of all breathing problems,” Andrea Driskell told Reuters outside the Sydney terminal.
Australia, which has become more aware of the coronavirus after 15 people infected with the virus upon arrival from China, has temporarily banned the entry of foreigners who have traveled across mainland China.
A cruise security officer who refused to be named said, “This virus is causing chaos, we just want people to be safe.”
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Paulina Duran in Sydney; additional reporting by Swati Pandey, Jonathan Barrett and Renju Jose; editing by Jane Wardell)