A cruise ship that had been barred from docking in San Francisco after a coronavirus outbreak on board has landed in Oakland, California.
The ship had 21 confirmed cases among the 3,500 passengers and crew on board and had been idling off the coast of California for four days as authorities worked out how to get passengers safely ashore without spreading the potentially deadly virus.
The Port of Oakland was chosen for docking because of its proximity to an airport and a military base, California Governor Gavin Newsom said.
Grand Princess passenger Karen Schwartz Dever told The Associated Press shortly before docking that it feels “awesome” to finally be in the San Francisco Bay.
“Everyone was hollering and clapping as we entered the harbour,” she said.
Ship personnel, covered head to toe in protective gear, woke passengers early Monday to check whether they have symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Michele Smith, 57, of Paradise, California, told the AP that a doctor had knocked on her and her husband’s cabin before dawn and asked if they had a fever or a cough.
The couple, who are on their annual vacation, are healthy and, like the rest of the 2,400 passengers on board, have been isolating in their cabins since Thursday, they said.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump had suggested he’d “rather” the passengers stayed on the ship to avoid a spike in the country’s infection tally, despite health experts recommendations that they disembark.
Shortly before the ship landed on Monday, Newsom and the mayor of Oakland sought to reassure the public that none of the Grand Princess passengers would be exposed to the public before completing quarantine.
At the port in Oakland, Fences had been put up and buses and flights were lined up to transport the more than 2,000 passengers. Most were slated to go into quarantine at four military bases across the country, with those requiring immediate medical attention heading to hospitals.
The crew of 1,100 will be quarantined and treated on board the ship, unless they are in need of acute care off the vessel, officials said, while the State Department was working with the home countries of several hundred passengers to arrange their repatriation.
“We’re making every effort to get them off the ship as safely and quickly as possible,” said Dr John Redd of the US Department of Health and Human Services, said shortly before disembarkation began.
The number of infections in the United States climbed to 600 on Monday, with at least 22 deaths, according to local media.
The virus has infected more than 110,000 worldwide, with Italy becoming the latest country to lock down a region in an attempt to prevent its spread.