Japan’s Justice Minister Says No Need to Ban All Cruise Ships Due to Virus Fears

(Bloomberg) -- Japan’s justice minister said she saw no need at this point to ban all cruise ships from the country’s shores, even as the world’s largest outbreak of the novel coronavirus outside China develops on a cruise vessel quarantined off Yokohama.

“We have made a decision about one ship,” Masako Mori, whose ministry oversees Japan’s Immigration Services Agency, said in an interview Friday, referring to a decision Thursday by a cabinet-level panel to effectively ban a separate cruise liner from berthing anywhere in the country.

“We may do this again, and if the situation changes we may use other laws. At this point, we’re limiting it to one cruise ship,” she said.

Japan’s Justice Minister Says No Need to Ban All Cruise Ships Due to Virus Fears

Other countries have adopted far tougher immigration measures. Hong Kong has closed its Kai Tak and Ocean cruise line terminals, shut border crossings and said it will soon implement a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering from the mainland.

Japan currently forbids entry by foreigners who have visited China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, within the previous 14 days. People carrying Hubei-issued passports and non-Japanese infected with the virus are also banned, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

“We won’t hesitate to take decisions,” on further measures if the situation changes in a way that could put people at risk, Mori added.

Japan’s Justice Minister Says No Need to Ban All Cruise Ships Due to Virus Fears
Japan’s Justice Minister Says No Need to Ban All Cruise Ships Due to Virus Fears

The Westerdam cruise liner was blocked by Japan due to its suspicions that a person on board had contracted the virus. It’s currently sailing southeast away from the island of Ishigaki, which had been scheduled as one of its ports of call, according to tracking data.

“Regarding the Westerdam, there is a concern about infection spreading on the ship,” Mori said. “If it were to dock in our country, the infection could spread here as well.”

The liner’s operators, Holland America of Carnival Corp., have said there are no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on board and emphasized that the ship is not under quarantine.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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