THE United States Government has advised its citizens to avoid cruises as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

“US citizens, particularly travellers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the State Department said in a statement posted to its website, yesterday.

“CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking.

In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the US Government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for US citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.

“This is a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travellers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships,” said the US State Department.

Jamaica, which is among the countries which have imposed strict guidelines for cruise passengers in light of the deadly coronavirus, said last night that the implications of the US advisory, in the face of the global fears and uncertainty, will have a potentially devastating effect on economies primarily those that are hugely dependent on tourism and travel.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said, the Caribbean, which has more than 40 per cent of its GDP dependent on tourism, will be especially impacted.

“Our reality is that cruise tourism in the Caribbean represents over 80 per cent of global cruisers, indeed we are the largest and most profitable warm weather destination on earth. The largest demographic of cruise and land-base visitors to the Caribbean would fall in the age cohort of health risk and vulnerable travellers and consequently we are likely to see a big dip in the arrivals and earnings,” said Bartlett.

He said cruise lines and airlines will have to make important decisions as to how to operate in this context and may make severe adjustments to their itineraries.

“The result could be thousands of Caribbean and Jamaican workers unemployed and huge haemorrhage to the economy. These prospects are worst than any other disruptions the world has seen in the past 50 years,” said Bartlett.

He said he has called a meeting of the leadership of the tourism sector for tomorrow morning at Jamaica Pegasus hotel to review what by then will be a clearer picture of the responses of the air and cruise lines and to begin planning a tourism response strategy.

“Tourism, though extremely vulnerable to global disruptions, is the most resilient of all industries and has the greatest capacity for quick recovery and exponential growth as we have seen after SARS in 2002/3, 9/11 , and the recession of 2008/9,” said Bartlett.