There are tensions this afternoon between the Health and Wellness Ministry and stakeholders in the cruise shipping industry, over how to prevent the deadly coronavirus, COVID-19, from entering Jamaica via the floating hotels.
The Health and Wellness Ministry has implemented a rigid set of protocols for cruise vessels docking at piers in Jamaica.
These include cruise operators alerting local health officials of the ports previously visited and any prevailing health issues onboard.
But there has been push back.
The tensions were laid bare today.
The health authorities have been battling the powerful multi-billion dollar cruise shipping sector in their efforts to prevent COVID-19 getting here via the floating hotels.
It’s been an open secret that Health Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has been under pressure to relax the protocols so as not to trigger a total bypass of Jamaica by the cruise lines.
The sector is managed by the Port Authority of Jamaica, PAJ.
This morning the PAJ issued a statement stating that the MS Braemar Cruise ship was to dock at Port Royal at 9 today.
That vessel, operated by the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, was denied access by the Dominican Republic last week, after several persons on board displayed flu like symptoms.
According to the UK Daily Mail, the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines later insisted that none of the passengers’ symptoms were consistent with COVID-19.
The ship then docked at St Marten, and picked up 544 passengers, before leaving for Port Royal.
Both the Dominican Republic and St Maarten, have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, says the ship was allowed preliminary docking in Port Royal this morning, to allow for all the necessary health information to be examined, and verified.
But, in its statement the Port Authority said the ship had satisfied all the required protocols of the Health Ministry.
However, Dr Tufton says up to 6 this morning those measures were not satisfied.
He admits there have been tensions.
But, the Health and Wellness Minister says his team remains relentless in enforcing its protocols.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, is dismissing claims that there are tensions between his portfolio ministry and the Health Ministry.
He told our news centre a short while ago that he’s to meet with Dr Tufton tomorrow to discuss the differences that have surfaced.
In the meantime, planned tours were cancelled today after the MS Braemar docked at Port Royal and had to undergo medical checks consistent with the Health Ministry’s protocol.
The ship arrived at the Pier before midday.
But, passengers were eventually allowed to disembark after 1PM.
Pier Dispatcher at Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Mackeda Booth, expressed disappointment.
Mackeda Booth, Pier Dispatcher at Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
Some of the tourists told our News Centre that while the delay was frustrating, they understand the concerns.
They were speaking this afternoon with Nationwide News.