MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - An Italian cruise ship that earlier in its voyage disembarked two passengers who later tested positive for the coronavirus has docked in Marseille, southern France, authorities and passengers said on Thursday.
The 1,400 passengers and the crew of the ship - which left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 5 on a cruise destined for Venice, Italy - will remain on board as they wait for the results of coronavirus infection tests on suspected cases.
"The regional health authority will investigate the situation on board. We are waiting for its decision to see whether passengers can disembark," a port authority spokesman said.
France is in its third day of a virtual lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic, with 264 dead so far.
According to a message from the captain, reposted on a passengers' Facebook group, the cruise operator has made arrangements for some passengers to leave the ship in Marseille and fly home from there. Others will remain on the ship, which on Friday will sail to Savona, northern Italy, where all remaining passengers will disembark.
HOPING TO DISEMBARK
An American passenger said he and some other U.S. citizens had already received airplane tickets for a charter flight that would fly them from Marseille to the U.S. city of Atlanta late on Thursday.
A British passenger said she had also received tickets to fly to Britain from Marseille on Thursday evening.
"That is, if we can get off the boat," she added.
There are more than 1,420 passengers on the Costa Luminosa, including 230 Americans, 168 Italians and 100 Canadians, according to the cruise operator, Italy's Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.
The company did not respond to requests for comment.
Days after leaving the Florida coast, the Costa Luminosa disembarked two sick passengers in Puerto Rico. The two later tested positive for coronavirus.
On March 15, the ship unloaded four more sick travellers at Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands, but police stopped other people from disembarking there, passengers said.
It was not immediately clear whether there were more suspected cases on board.
The Miami Herald reported that according to ship logs obtained by the newspaper, at least 24 crew members have been classified as sick and isolated. At least 50 passengers have also been classified as sick or are roommates of sick passengers.
One passenger said that while guests were confined to their cabins, many people were wandering the relatively empty ship, which is operating at about half its passenger capacity of 2,828 people.
(Reporting by Marc Leras in Marseille and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Gareth Jones)
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