OAKLAND: Passengers waiting to disembark from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in California faced frustrating delays on Tuesday (Mar 10), despite US President Donald Trump saying the operation was going “incredibly well.”
The Grand Princess arrived at a sealed-off wharf at the port of Oakland in San Francisco Bay on Monday after days stranded at sea with 21 confirmed infections on board.
California Governor Gavin Newsom admitted the start of the operation had been slow, with just 676 people taken ashore by early Tuesday afternoon from roughly 2,400 passengers.
“We’re going to need to see an increase in those processing in order to turn this ship around,” he told a news conference. “We don’t want to see it here for more than a week.”
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Trump earlier told a White House meeting that the “big ship that came in yesterday” was “going along incredibly well”.
Health Secretary Alex Azar said it was “a very complex operation” but “progressing well”, with all Californian residents expected to leave the ship on Tuesday.
Two people infected with the virus were among those immediately taken for medical care in ambulances, overseen by emergency workers equipped with gowns, gloves, respirators and face shields.
After an overnight pause, more masked passengers were escorted in small groups from the Grand Princess to ambulances and waiting buses on Tuesday.
“The captain said they hope to have us all off by tomorrow night,” passenger Carolyn Wright, a 63-year-old from New Mexico, told AFP.
“We are getting really frustrated that they still have not told us where our ultimate destination will be,” she added.
Princess Cruises, the operator, said the evacuation would be a “multiple day process.”
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US residents leaving the ship were to be quarantined for 14 days at military bases in California, Texas and Georgia.
But doubts emerged after Nevada unveiled its own plan to bring all 49 of its passengers – who do not have symptoms – directly to the state for quarantine at their homes.
“We have received confirmation from the federal government accepting all the conditions” of the plan, the Nevada governor’s office said in a statement.
Passengers who were taken to hospital but found to be stable will be quarantined in hotels and motels throughout California, Newsom said.
Foreign passengers were being flown to their home countries.
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said 228 Canadians were repatriated and would be quarantined for two weeks after landing at the Trenton air force base.
The 19 crew members who tested positive for coronavirus did not have symptoms and remained on the ship pm Tuesday, in isolation in their cabins, Princess Cruises said.
Newsom said the original plan to quarantine all crew on the ship once it leaves Oakland was being reconsidered. Some members of the crew – which is disproportionately Filipino – could instead be repatriated, he said.
A Florida couple travelling on the Grand Princess filed a US$1 million lawsuit against the ship’s operator alleging negligence.
Princess Cruises had “exposed plaintiffs to actual risk of immediate physical injury”, a copy of the complaint filed at a Los Angeles court Monday said.
Newsom said it was now “incumbent upon seniors and those with any medical conditions, not to go on cruise ships, and to begin to socially isolate themselves from larger crowds”.
About 28 people have died of the coronavirus in the US, with almost 1,000 cases reported, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.