Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 11, 2020 (SKNIS): Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Lindsay Grant, has cautioned residents that this year’s cruise season will be challenging based on disruptions to travel caused by the continued spread of COVID-19, also known as the Novel Coronavirus.

The outbreak has been particularly worrying for the cruise sector. Several ships operating in various regions around the world have recorded confirmed cases over the past months. This has resulted in cruise ships being denied docking permission at various ports while passengers and crew members are isolated for their protection, and infected individuals quarantined.

On March 04, 2020, passengers on the cruise ship Costa Magica were not allowed to disembark after docking at Port Zante in St. Kitts. The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution” given that a number of persons onboard “had left a known hotspot well within the 14-day incubation period of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

At the “Discussions for a Stronger, Safer Future” town hall meeting on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Challengers Community Centre, Minister Grant stated that “The safety and the security of our citizens are paramount … so if we have to turn away a ship because we are thinking of you and your health and wellness, so be it.”

The tourism minister noted that the government is working closely with all stakeholders to achieve the best possible results.

In 2019, cruise tourism arrivals were 1,046,019 persons. This is a dramatic increase given that the number of cruise arrivals recorded in 2014 was 639,762 passengers. Minister Grant indicated that the figures for the year as of February 29, 2020, show that some 512,640 cruise passengers have visited the island.

“We are not going to reach the numbers, but you will appreciate and understand that we have the concern [for] your safety,” Honourable Grant said.

Cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in several Caribbean islands including Jamaica, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy (St. Barths), Martinique and the Dominican Republic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11, 2020, declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.