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US warns against travel by cruise ship on increased coronavirus risk

The US is advising citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, not to travel by cruise ship due to increased risk of coronavirus infection.

The warning — issued Sunday by the Department of State — is a blow to cruise operators.

'Unwanted addition' on top of getting plan to Mike Pence

'This is an unwanted addition we have to deal with,' a spokesman from a major cruise company told Seatrade Cruise News. 'We are fully focused on getting a plan to the vice president to ensure we can handle situations related to this outbreak without burdening government resources and that is the best thing we can do to take care of this.'

Vice President Mike Pence is overseeing the US response to coronavirus and met with cruise leaders Saturday

Such an action had been discussed by the government but Sunday's warning appeared to come as a surprise so closely following that meeting. 

'Increased risk of infection in a cruise ship environment'

The Department of State said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 'notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. 

'While the US government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for US citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.'

Special warning to older adults and those with health issues

The Department of State added: 'This is a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding nonessential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.'

The notice advised passengers with plans to travel by cruise to contact the lines directly for further information.

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