Coronavirus: Chile quarantines 1,300 aboard two cruise ships

Passengers wear protective face masks at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, on March 14, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SANTIAGO (AFP) - Chile has quarantined more than 1,300 people aboard two cruise ships after an elderly Briton aboard one of them tested positive for the coronavirus, the health ministry announced on Saturday (March 14).

Both ships are cruising the Chilean fjords in Patagonia.

The 85-year-old man showed symptoms of the virus after getting off the Silver Explorer ship in the far southern port of Caleta Tortel, 2,400km from Santiago.

The man was later transferred to a hospital in the city of Coyhaique where he tested positive for the virus.

"The ship is in quarantine off the port of Castro. The British citizen is in good condition but has tested positive for coronavirus," said Health Minister Jaime Manalich told a press conference.

The other ship, the Azmara Pursuit - with 665 passengers and nearly 400 crew - had earlier crossed into Chilean waters from the southern Argentine port of Ushuaia.

Manalich said it was currently near the port of Chacabuco after authorities banned it from landing passengers there, on grounds that it was carrying suspected cases of the coronavirus.

The ship is on a 21-day cruise from Buenos Aires to Callao in Peru, just beside Lima.

The number of coronavirus cases in Chile reached 61 on Saturday, 18 more than on Friday.

Manalich said Chile is in Phase 3 of the crisis, with means that in addition to those infected with Covid-19 coming from abroad, there may be local cases.

"This means a more delicate situation from the epidemiological point of view in controlling the disease," he said.

Chile has taken broad measures against the spread of the virus, banning events of more than 500 people, recommending people work from home, and ordering the quarantine of 2,600 students attending an elite private school in Santiago.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.