Taiwan authorities confirmed Friday that a cruise ship currently off the coast of Naha in Okinawa Prefecture that was not allowed to dock by Japanese authorities amid the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to return to Keelung in the north, according to local media.
The approval comes a day after a ban went into effect on all cruise ships from calling in Taiwan ports, following a mass outbreak on another cruise ship currently quarantined in Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Speaking to reporters at the Central Epidemic Center Friday morning, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung indicated that special accommodations were made for the vessel because approximately 90 percent of the guests are from Taiwan.
However, all guests and crew will be required to undergo thorough health screening upon arrival, he said.
"Even if there is only one person who tests positive for the coronavirus, the infected person will be taken off the ship for medical treatment and the rest will be quarantined on the ship for at least 14 days," Chen said.
[Photo courtesy of National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan]
Among the more than 1,709 passengers aboard the Super Star Aquarius, some appear to have recently traveled to China, according to reports.
Central News Agency reported that the ship left Keelung on Tuesday for a four-day round-trip cruise. It was scheduled to make a port call in Naha on Wednesday and Thursday and arrive back at Keelung Friday afternoon.
However, the ship was turned away by Japan over concerns about the illness, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The ship is now scheduled to arrive back in Keelung on Saturday, the report said.
The Diamond Princess cruise liner, which is now quarantined in Yokohama for at least two weeks, stopped at Keelung on Jan. 31. According to Taiwanese media, many passengers visited temples and the Palace Museum and ate at hotels, prompting disinfection measures at various places.
Japanese officials said Friday that the number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus on that cruise ship has tripled to 61.
Also Friday, the center announced that the transportation link between China's coastal province of Fujian and Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu will be suspended, effective Monday.
On Thursday it imposed a blanket ban on Chinese travelers entering from the mainland.
The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Taiwan remained at 16 on Friday.
The number of people infected with the virus has reached over 31,000 in mainland China, with 636 confirmed deaths, the Chinese government said Friday.