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VI allows cruise ship to dock despite alleged Norovirus infection outbreak

- St Maarten health authorities prevented ship from docking there one day prior to it coming to VI
The Norwegian Gem yesterday March 19, 2016 entered the Port Road Harbour and docked at the cruise pier and had passengers disembark even after it was denied berthing in St Maarten one day prior because of passengers allegedly becoming sick with the stomach flu Norovirus. Photo: The Daily Herald
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – The Norwegian Gem yesterday March 19, 2016 entered the Port Road Harbour at the Tortola Pier Park and docked at the cruise pier and had passengers disembark even after it was denied berthing in St Maarten one day prior because of passengers allegedly becoming sick with the stomach flu Norovirus.

According to the schedule posted on the BVI Tourist Board website, the ship was allowed in port. This is despite being prevented from berthing in St Maarten.

Persons upon speaking with some of the passengers flooded our newsroom with calls to say that they were taken aback that the Virgin Islands authorities let the vessel dock despite news reports on the prevention of docking at its previous port of call.

A press release dated Saturday March 19, 2016 from The Daily Herald, a St Maarten publication, said on Friday, March 18, 2016 a number of passengers on-board the Norwegian Gem Cruise Ship was infected with an infectious virus.

“The vessel was boarded outside Port St Maarten and was boarded by a Port Control Team that also included officials from the Ministry of Public Health and the Shipping & Maritime Authority, to gather further information with respect to the on-board virus,” said the release. 

It said that while on board, the Port Control Team were informed of additional cases, and based on this information and after further evaluation, it was decided in the interests of public health that the passengers and crew should not disembark. “The causative agent at the time of inspection was unknown and the Captain was advised to return to homeport for vessel sanitation procedures,” it said.

According to the release, the cruise ship industry from time to time suffers from the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, and the Norovirus is a very contagious virus and the one that is most prominent. “You can get the virus from an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up.”

It said Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships are common, and according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), outbreaks are found and reported more quickly on a cruise ship than on land. 

The release said that the Norwegian Gem which was outside Port St. Maarten left after the decision of the Port Control Team was made.

Concerns expressed by members of VI public

One of the persons who called our newsroom concerned said that while he was ferrying passengers from the ship on a day tour he overheard them talking about the ordeal of the passengers while in St Maarten. He said that he further inquired as to what they were talking about when they informed him about what had taken place there.

“I had a bus load of about 12 or 13 people and they all saying the same thing and then a lady told me the whole story,” said the driver. “They were blocked from docking in St Maarten because of a virus,” he related.

Another person called our newsroom upset that the ship was allowed to dock her despite the fears expressed in St Maarten.

"Our government don't care about us here. They still allowed the ship to dock at our pier just to collect money...all for the wealth and forgetting about our health," the VI resident said.

When this news site called the local shipping agent for Norwegian Gem, Islands Shipping and Trading Ltd., the woman who answered said that she was not the right person for us to speak with and that it was Sunday morning. She then hung up the phone on us.

Minister for Communications and Works Hon Mark H. Vanterpool (R4) when contacted by this news site said he had not heard of the matter but said that the determination as to whether a ship berths or not for reasons of health is made by the local health authorities. Acting Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority Alfred 'Al' Henley when asked by this news site about the "infected" ship said he had no knowledge of the issue.

33 Responses to “VI allows cruise ship to dock despite alleged Norovirus infection outbreak”

  • well sah GREED (20/03/2016, 15:00) Like (47) Dislike (7) Reply
    The NDP will do any thing for money including putting our lives at risk.
    • Taxi driver (20/03/2016, 16:51) Like (3) Dislike (47) Reply
      u have no idea of what u are saying, st marten can do that, down there everything is legal, some persons on the ship develop diarrhea, come on now, how devastated that could of been to the bvi, here talking pi$$ what u don't know!
      • Lily Ann (20/03/2016, 18:23) Like (24) Dislike (4) Reply
        So I must accept diarrhea in couple days because its no big deal ????? (god forbid) ... Because your pocket done fulllll you aint care about your health ... WOW ... very astonishing !!!
  • state of emergency (20/03/2016, 15:05) Like (24) Dislike (5) Reply
    We will all get sick after the fishes eat the filth that was discarded in our waters (unfortunately the government don't care about us much less diseases)
  • vip (20/03/2016, 15:06) Like (26) Dislike (5) Reply
    The NDP had us all at risk.
  • outbreak (20/03/2016, 15:08) Like (20) Dislike (3) Reply
    We need a caring government, one that would look out for our well being.
  • wilmut ham (20/03/2016, 15:13) Like (30) Dislike (7) Reply
    "if the world was the shape of a cow, tortola would've been the @$$hole"
  • DON Q (20/03/2016, 15:39) Like (20) Dislike (2) Reply
    Look how the ndp putting our life at risk they careless about the poor
  • Well Well (20/03/2016, 15:45) Like (88) Dislike (1) Reply
    When ever you hear about and out break of any thing on a cruise ship they always return to the home port. The minister for health should have stop the ship from coming to the pier you mean for the money you put your citizen at risk. What the hell is wrong with these people who suppose to be running this place. People of the BVI get serious things going from bad to worst and believe there is more serious news to come they even letting a child molester to enter our country I hope the immigration take a firm stand and keep him out of here and tell /// /////// that this man should not enter our ISLAND. It seems that our leader have a /////over his/////. I Will be back with the reason for the AIR PORT soon.
    • @well well (21/03/2016, 09:36) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      While you are at it, please address the child Molesters in the BVI. They are located in high places and Government offices. Can back up my talk. Round them up, put them in a barrel and ship them out at sea. Work on that. ( might be beyond you because they have large family names) Anyway, go talk that.
  • Political Observer (20/03/2016, 15:48) Like (20) Dislike (3) Reply
    If indeed passengers aboard the Norwegian Gem are inflicted with the contagious norovirus, permitting passengers and crew to disembark at the Port was at best a risky decision. The health and safety of residents should come before all else. The health and safety of residents should come before revenue collections. This may have posed an unnecessary risk to the health and safety of residents. The benefits gained, if any, do not outweigh the cost. This was probably a poor judgement and not a sensible risk. Sint Maarten made the right decision, putting health and safety of residents over dollars. Was this decision made with the input of the Premier and the Minister of health? And if so did they concur with the decision.
    • affected (20/03/2016, 17:55) Like (59) Dislike (3) Reply
      Premier ? U tink he have a clue bout da ship ? I tink not .
      Minister of Health ? Well i tink he out witnessing
      This is holy week. Dey busy wid otter bizz
  • dog (20/03/2016, 16:19) Like (50) Dislike (2) Reply
    Good investigative reporting vino
  • dog (20/03/2016, 17:28) Like (4) Dislike (8) Reply
    Boss ndp left place broke so let the ship come in
  • bvi (20/03/2016, 17:38) Like (10) Dislike (3) Reply
    Numbers are Numbers at any cost. Mark must have his numbers.
  • wow (20/03/2016, 17:44) Like (47) Dislike (2) Reply
    Al has turn out to be a big waste he never knows anything SMH
  • Lily Ann (20/03/2016, 18:18) Like (85) Dislike (3) Reply
    This is appalling ... I know for a FACT that NOOOO ship can dock without giving a full medical rundown beforehand !!! So government, dont play that shi today !!! ....
  • Amazing (20/03/2016, 18:20) Like (18) Dislike (3) Reply
    Whats really going in the VI? Are things really that bad that we would let a ship with infected individuals disembark just to make money from them. Yes I know some people will say its just diarrhea and vomiting but could imagine if 100 persons with diarrhea and vomiting and go to the ER all at once then end up infecting to short staff hospital. SMH one of these days a cruise ship will bring some deadly disease and I could only hope to poor people don't suffer.
  • MAUBEE (20/03/2016, 18:27) Like (3) Dislike (19) Reply
    People People People .... Yall wouldnt have known about this if that tourist didnt open her mouth to the Captain ...
    Yall think its only Cruise passengers that does bring in Viruses ??? ... you ever stop to wonder about Passengers off the flights or the ferry?? Its the same way they can bring in Sickness in the country!!!!! So dont carry on because you get to know an insight of this mishap !!!! Because ALL ports of entry is a GATEWAY for Viruses ... And Viruses DO get in in the Country !!!
    • Concerned (21/03/2016, 01:39) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
      Yes Viruses do get in the country from different ports but when the entry can be avoid1ed it should! That is NO EXCUSE for them to allow that ship to dock and disembark. So yes WE as the people have ALL RIGHT to be upset! St Maarten protected their people with the knowledge that they obtained, what is happening here??.
  • new dumb party (20/03/2016, 19:20) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    It was over 400 persons infected with the virus
  • voter (20/03/2016, 20:34) Like (6) Dislike (6) Reply
    I am no NDP fan but to blame this on NDP SMH.. Here is details on the story from Cruise Critic: Obviously the Environmental Health Department boarded the ship and found the measures taken to be satisfactory and was satisfied with the quarantine of sick persons and the number did not pose a danger to the public.

    Given the size of the ship 1124 crew and 2358 passengers at 2% we are looking at around 60-70 sic persons not hundreds

    (1:40 p.m. EDT) -- Norwegian Gem skipped a scheduled port stop in St. Maarten because of gastro illness Friday.

    The 2,394-passenger ship, currently on a March 12 sailing to the Eastern Caribbean from New York, was scheduled to spend the day on the island. Over the course of the cruise, "a number of guests reported to the medical center with various symptoms of gastroenteritis after returning to the ship after a port call," the line said in a statement.

    After consulting with public health authorities in St. Maarten, the ship will remain at sea "in an abundance of caution." Employees on Norwegian Gem have been carrying out an extensive range of sanitizing and preventative measures on board, the line said.

    The Centers for Disease Control has not posted a report on the illness yet. The U.S. health authorities must get involved once a communicable disease on a ship sickens at least 3 percent of passengers; the number of sick passengers on Norwegian Gem is currently 2 percent, the line said.

    Cruise Critic members onboard the ship have been updating the vessel's status. "I am impressed by the response of the ship," noted Kingmaker_Inc. "Several people have been quarantined. The ship has changed procedures around commonly touched items, such as serving spoons. Only staff can touch serving spoons and such in ALL of the restaurants."

    Gastrointestinal illnesses have flulike symptoms, including vomiting, low-grade fever and diarrhea. It spreads quickly when many people are confined to a small area, such as a cruise ship -- but also hotels, schools and hospitals. The best way to avoid catching the illness is to wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating and when you use the bathroom. For more information, read our Editors' Tips: Norovirus -- What You Need to Know.

    --By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor

  • Law Abiding citizen (20/03/2016, 20:58) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Bravo to our government.
  • Hmm (20/03/2016, 21:15) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    this is part of the brilliant plant to generate traffic into the new hospital with full blown NHI in effect. Germ warfare is real people, its not just the movies.
  • Building Courage (21/03/2016, 03:06) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    Lessons for a Government in the Moonlight- VI Focused

    The “good management paradigm” suggests that public and private institutions “do good by doing well and do well by doing good.” This approach has led to what is termed a “virtuous circle,” in which the social performance of good institutions’ feeds financial performance. Thus, the practice of “good management paradigm” clearly proves that being socially responsible does not hurt the bottom-line but actually improves it; and in its practice, immeasurable sustainable/supportive benefits are reciprocated- such as high levels of integrity, trust and respect from its people. I commend the Leadership of St. Maarten for the bold step taken to safeguard their people.
  • tru talk (21/03/2016, 09:02) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Building courage I second da motion.that is what u call good governance
  • wow (21/03/2016, 11:26) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    It was humane to let them dock but foolish to let them depart the sick, this government has risked the health of it's people for the sake of money
  • Get Real (21/03/2016, 23:08) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
    the current goverment has fail, they must be removed from office with the ballot box and we need to support some new blood
  • Chile... (21/03/2016, 23:46) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    things like this make you regret voting lol.
  • chad (23/03/2016, 22:51) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I cant belive, to what extent this govt would go for $$$$. Forgetting about the welfare of the people! They so full of s$#t.
  • Running8 (24/03/2016, 19:51) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I was a passenger on the Gem! Sick passengers were quaranteened; I know because I spoke to one (3 days contained to room) after she became well! The ship stepped up it's wellness protocol after the illness was detected. I want to say that I've been to your beautiful island 3 or 4 times. It is beautiful and the most recent improvements for tourists and to your Island are outstanding. Thank God we were allowed to visit. Respectfully.

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