File image courtesy NZ Customs
By The Maritime Executive 01-24-2020 11:19:00
The new coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan, China has implications for seafarers, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. The novel and deadly strain of the virus has put health authorities on alert around the world, and MARAD reports that port officials are also aware of the issue and on the lookout for mariners who may be affected.
“This is a rapidly changing situation and we are still learning about the new virus,” MARAD advised. “Globally, ports are taking actions including health screenings of seafarers for ‘2019-nCoV’ and restricting access to Wuhan port in China.”
Wuhan is located more than 600 river miles from the sea, but it is an important regional port on the Yangtze: its container terminal broke the one-million-TEU mark in 2019.
The outbreak is a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus dubbed “2019-nCoV.” Coronavirus strains include variants responsible for the common cold, but some are responsible for much more serious illnesses, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Since the emergence of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan in late December, confirmed cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, the United States, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. So far, the new coronavirus has caused 41 confirmed deaths, all in China and all but three in Wuhan. Most of the fatal cases have involved elderly patients.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Warning cautioning American citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Wuhan. The U.S. Department of State has also issued several travel advisories on this outbreak, including a Level 4 advisory cautioning citizen not travel to the entirety of Hubei province due to the outbreak. The department has also ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members.
However, the U.S. travel advisories have been superceded in part by China’s own restrictions: in a massive effort at containment, the Chinese government has quarantined the entirety of Wuhan and about a dozen nearby cities – an area encompassing 35 million people.