On hand at the port to welcome the passengers and crew were Phuket health officials, marine officers, immigration and Royal Thai Navy personnel to provide clearance for the arrivals to come ashore – and check them for elevated body temperatures as they disembarked the ship.
Phuket Marine Chief Wiwat Chitchertwong confirmed that no passengers or crew disembarking the ship were found to be ill.
“We were in contact with the ship’s medical staff before they arrived. The ship was held offshore for 24 hours while the medical team on board confirmed that no people on board were suspect of being infected with the coronavirus,” he said.
“Also, we are able to track all passengers and crew while they are in Phuket as they are stopping here for only 10 hours,” Mr Wiwat added.
Phuket is currently in the middle of its peak cruise liner tour season, January through February, Mr Wiwat noted.
“There were 16 cruise ships that came here in January, and there will be 17 ships in total in February,” he said.
“Cruise ships moor at two places: Phuket Deep Sea Port and Patong. The same screening procedure is used at both locations,” Mr Wiwat explained.
Mr Wiwat noted that there has been major concerns over cruise ships arriving in Phuket, and concerns over cancellations of cruise liners coming to the island.
He assured that risks were analysed and procedures followed to ensure to resolve the problem.
“We have an integrated team from the relevant departments of the PPHO, plant quarantine officers, Immigration, Customs and the Marine Dept Region 3 office who meet to discuss and assess the situation every day to analyse the risk of allowing tourists to arrive on various ships,” he said.
Also at the port this morning was Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana, who stressed that all the tourists on board the Seabourne Ovation were Europeans, not Chinese.
“This large cruise ship docking at the Deep Sea Port today has brought quality European tourists, who are usually expected to spend about B6,000 per person per day. With more than 400 such tourists arriving on this ship, it is estimated that they will spend over B3 million in Phuket,” he said.
Governor Phakaphong also lambasted fake reports on Thai social media that the Seabourne Ovation had been refused port in Singapore over fears that passengers on board were carrying the Wuhan coronavirus.
“The news that this cruise ship was not allowed to moor at Singapore and then came to Phuket instead is wrong,” the Governor said plainly.
“This ship had previously moored at Laem Chabang once, and is scheduled to arrive back in Singapore on Feb 15,” he said.
“I want everyone to shop sharing this wrong information. The Phuket Government and the PPHO have been screening tourists intensively. Trust our working, as we are following the regulations and standards set by the Ministry of Public Health [MoPH] and the World Health Organization [WHO],” he stressed.
“These same screening process – in accordance with WHO standards and the MoPH – are used every day at the airport, at piers and at public transport stations. This will continue until the MoPH instructs otherwise,” he said.
“The European tourists who came on the cruise said they were happy with the screening measures today. Even though there were no Chinese on board, officials complied with international standards, just like those used in the United States. They feel happy and safe to come to Phuket,” he added.