Possible Virus Case Traps 7,000 on Carnival Cruise Ship in Italy

A cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp. was blocked from leaving an Italian port with some 7,000 people on board, after a passenger came down with symptoms that raised concerns about a possible case of coronavirus.

Carnival’s Italian unit Costa Crociere SpA said that a 54-year-old woman from Macau is currently in isolation on board its Costa Smeralda cruise ship in the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome, though preliminary medical reports indicated that the virus was not present, an Italian official said.

Carnival shares erased some losses on the news of the medical tests, and traded down 2% at 10:01 a.m. in New York.

Cruise stocks have been slumping as analysts projected an earnings impact from coronavirus. Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. previously suspended several cruises departing from China, a small but growing market for the U.S. companies.

Patrick Scholes, an analyst with SunTrust, said the Italian lockdown wouldn’t help.

“Even if it is a false alarm, the surrounding media attention is a negative for the propensity to book a cruise,” Scholes said Thursday by email. “Too early to quantify the financial impact from this latest news, but it’s safe to say that it will put pressure on earnings and investor sentiment for the cruise stocks.”

A medical team from a Rome hospital earlier Thursday examined the patient, who demonstrated fever and respiratory symptoms, according to the Italian Coast Guard. Further operations on the ship “will be decided later,” a Coast Guard spokesman said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters during a visit to Sofia that Italy is adopting all measures necessary to tackle risks linked to the virus, adding that “there is no need to spread alarmist information or to fuel any form of panic.”

“As soon as the suspected case emerged, medical staff on board immediately activated the necessary health procedures,” Costa Crociere said in a statement. “Our priority is to guarantee the health and safety of our guests and team.”

Italian media reported that passengers were protesting the lockdown of the ship and lack of information.

“We don’t have information, no internet, because on the ship it doesn’t work,” Ansa new agency cited Italian passenger Liborio Iervolino as saying. “But above all we’re having our meals together in the common areas and we don’t know if someone is infected.”

The ship was bound for La Spezia in the Liguria region, with 1,000 crew and 6,000 passengers, 750 of whom came from China, a port spokesman said.

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