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No plans to block cruise ships from docking in Vancouver despite COVID-19 concerns

Last Updated Mar 10, 2020 at 3:05 pm PST

FILE - Carrying multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the Grand Princess maintains a holding pattern about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, Sunday, March 8, 2020. The cruise ship docked at the Port of Oakland on Monday. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Grand Princess, which had 21 people test positive for COVID-19, is scheduled to dock in Vancouver in April

Port of Vancouver says it is taking its cues from Health Canada

UBC prof says officials must weigh pros and cons of shutting down cruise industry

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Canadian officials say they have no plans to block cruise ships from docking in Vancouver, including the same ship that had at least 21 people onboard test positive for COVID-19.

The Grand Princess, currently docked off Oakland after idling near San Francisco for several days, had 19 crew members and two passengers test positive for the novel coronavirus.

The same ship is scheduled to kick off the cruise-ship season in Vancouver in less than a month, docking April 2.

But with Canada’s chief public health officer urging Canadians to avoid all cruise-ship travel, does it make sense to allow the ship to come?

The Port of Vancouver said it’s taking its cues from Health Canada, but has no plans to stop cruise ships from docking.

“At this point, we are in discussions with our cruise line partners to understand any changes in passenger numbers, changes to itineraries and updated protocols and procedures in place in preparation for the upcoming cruise season,” Port spokesperson Danielle Jang said in an email.

Princess Cruises, which operates the Grand Princess, did not respond to questions.

Holland America has its first ship, Eurodam, scheduled to arrive in Vancouver on April 11. The company, which also owns Princess Cruises, says it has cancelled four Asian sailings of another ship, the Westerdam, but has made “no additional itinerary changes.”

Norwegian Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, which both have cruises planned to arrive in Vancouver in April, did not respond to questions from NEWS 1130.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it is keeping tabs on all cruise ships planned to come to the country starting next month, but isn’t yet calling for them to be barred from docking.

“As the situation evolves, many countries are implementing policies and restrictions to contain the outbreak,” a spokesperson said in an email. “The Government of Canada is also planning for all possible scenarios regarding cruise ships coming to Canadian ports in light of risks associated with COVID-19.”

Michael Curry, a clinical associate professor at the University of B.C., said officials need to be careful before taking drastic measures.

“The question boils down to the trade-off between the benefits of cruise ships – recreation for the passengers, jobs for the employees, and spending for the host city – versus the health risks, environmental costs, and opportunity costs,” he wrote in an email. “Perhaps the bigger question is who should adjudicate whether that trade-off is a positive one. I’m a bit of a libertarian, so I think that’s up to prospective customers, but some people may feel that should be a governmental decision.”