US health officials conducted tests aboard a cruise ship off the coast of San Francisco Thursday to determine if any of its nearly 3,500 passengers and crew have contracted the new coronavirus.
As of midday Thursday, all the passengers were confined to their cabins aboard the Grand Princess.
Some of them, who have shown flu-like symptoms, were being tested after one 71-year-old man who had been on board during a previous voyage died from the virus.
The ship had been due to dock in San Francisco on Wednesday but was prevented from doing so.
Officials said there were 2,383 passengers and 1,100 crew on the ship, which cut short its voyage back from Hawaii after passengers and crew members developed symptoms.
Among the passengers are 62 who remained on board from the earlier Mexico voyage and were already being restricted to their cabins, the Princess Cruises company said in a statement to reporters on Wednesday.
One of the passengers contacted by reporters said there was no panic on board and people seemed to be taking the setback in stride.
"I can't get over how the news is sensationalising our ship," said Carolyn Wright, 63, a professional photographer from New Mexico travelling with a friend. "There were two cases on the previous cruise and they act like everybody on board has the plague."
She said passengers were told to stay in their cabins and that test results would be released early Friday.
'I'M NOT REALLY WORRIED'
"I think it's all closing the barn after the horse has left," Wright said via text messages. "I'm not really worried. If you look at the odds, our risk is pretty low."
She said passengers were in good spirits "although that may change if we are stuck in our cabins for too long."
"Everybody I have seen on deck has been very calm and matter of fact, just taking it all in stride," she said. "The great majority of folks on the ship are over 60 and up to their 90's, and most are experienced cruisers."
Health officials said it was unclear as of yet when or where the ship would be allowed to dock.
Various agencies "are working to determine if Covid-19 is present on the ship," Mary Ellen Carroll, the head of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, told reporters, referring to the formal name of the virus.
She said 35 people had shown flu-like symptoms during the 15-day cruise, but many have already recovered.
"Testing protocols are being put into place on the ship for those passengers and crew that have shown flu-like symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus, and that is happening today," she added.
Carroll said once test results are back, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and California state officials will determine the most appropriate location for the ship to berth.
"The location needs to provide for the safety of the surrounding community, as well as the passengers and crew," she said. "The CDC and the state are considering a number of locations, including San Francisco."
On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said 11 passengers and 10 crew members were potentially infected with the virus that emerged in China late last year and has spread worldwide, killing more than 3,000 people.
The Grand Princess belongs to Princess Cruises, the same company which operated the Diamond Princess -- the coronavirus-stricken ship held off Japan last month from which more than 700 people tested positive and six died.