Port St. Maarten – On Thursday, a delegation from the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development & Labour (Ministry VSA) headed by Minister Hon. Cornelius de Weever, Port St. Maarten Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Mingo and port representatives, met in Miami, Florida with Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) President Michele Paige and representatives from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), regarding Ebola screening protocols for cruise ship passengers and crew.
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The incubation period from time of infection to symptoms is two to 21 days. In August, the Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern.
Minister De Weever and CEO Mark Mingo see the importance of protecting the destination, its people and the cruise sector, which contributes one third of economic activity in the national economy; from the possible impact of Ebola to the country. The main objective is to prevent a suspect or probable case from reaching the shores of St. Maarten.
The meeting with FCCA and CLIA was to ascertain cruise industry protocols related to cruise passengers and crew of vessels since this would be the first point of embarkation out of home ports in Florida or within the Caribbean where cruise lines operate from. All agree that there is a low risk of an Ebola infection breaking out on a cruise ship.
The delegation from St. Maarten along with the FCCA and CLIA are on the same level with respect to having the protocols in place to protect destinations and the cruise industry. A follow-up meeting will be held to evaluate the situation with Ebola and the measures that are currently in place to see whether they need to be enhanced based on recommendations coming from the WHO and the US Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The Minister, Port St. Maarten management, FCCA and CLIA are in agreement that out of an abundance of caution and care for the well-being of the people of St. Maarten, of cruise ship guests and crew members, the measures in place typically go beyond what is technically required.
Ebola infections in West Africa (mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia) have surpassed 10,000; laboratory confirmed cases 5692; total deaths, 4922 as of October 24.
On October 23, the West African country of Mali reported its first confirmed case of Ebola. Senegal and Nigeria have officially been declared by the WHO as Ebola free.
The FCCA/CLIA are working closely with the CDC regarding a Level 3 notice which is in place where US residents have been told to avoid nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia because of the unprecedented outbreaks of Ebola in those countries.
The measures taken to date by the cruise industry are: denial of boarding to anyone arriving from countries designated with a Level 3 travel health warning by the CDC; denial boarding to anyone who traveled to, in or through those countries within 21 days before embarkation; and contact screening, in addition to travel history screening, and denial of boarding for anyone who had physical contact with, or helped care for, a person with Ebola within 21 days before embarkation.
Ministry VSA informed Port management on Tuesday, October 21 about national preparations that are taking place and the various meetings with stakeholders and others that are planned to deal with Ebola.
Country Sint Maarten has to comply with International Health Regulations (IHR) where public health is concerned. Since Ebola has been declared a global health threat, all countries have to take preventive measures to prevent its spread.
Port St. Maarten is the first institution that has received the informative presentation from the Ministry. After the meeting, one of the immediate measures implemented by Port management is a program of increased sanitization at the port facility, and port tenants will also be asked to work along these lines as well.
Port St. Maarten and Ministry VSA already have a working relationship with respect to a health pre-clearance protocol related to cruise ships. A cruise vessel has to report 48 and 24 hour timeframes ahead if there are any cases of the norovirus which is very contagious.
CLIA is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with representation in North and South America, Asia and Australasia. The FCCA is a trade organization composed of 15 member cruise lines operating more than 100 vessels in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin American waters.