New coronavirus cluster linked to Egypt cruise ship

Luxor: A cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A Taiwanese-American tourist who had previously been on the same ship tested positive when she returned to Taiwan. The World Health Organisation informed Egyptian authorities, who tested everyone currently on the ship.



Health authorities found a dozen of the ship's Egyptian crew members had contracted the fast-spreading virus, but did not show symptoms, according to a statement on Friday.

The statement said the 12 will be transferred to isolation in a hospital on Egypt's north coast. The passengers – who include Americans, French and other nationalities – and the crew will remain quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results.

Egyptian authorities have been tight-lipped about the virus outbreak, previously reporting only three confirmed cases. That's even as the wider Mideast now has over 6,000 confirmed cases.

The new cases in Egypt came just days after three people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the US state of Texas. Officials in the city of Houston said Thursday that they believe the three were exposed to the virus while on a trip to Egypt in late February.

It was not immediately clear if the Texan tourists were on the same boat where the cluster occurred, how long the passengers on the ship had been quarantined, nor where exactly the initial Taiwanese tourist had contracted the virus.

The new and fast-spreading coronavirus could deliver a major blow to Egypt's tourism industry. The government has been struggling for years to revive the vital sector following the country's 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

Other countries around the world have closed schools and universities, while also cancelling major art, sporting and business events.

Egypt does not appear to have taken any of these types of measures, and Friday's discovery of the 12 cases coincided with the opening day of the Luxor African Film Festival.

"It's still unclear how many people came in contact with the group in the infected ship," said a senior police officer in Luxor. Cruise ships on the Nile often dock side by side, with passengers getting on and off by walking through several other vessels.

AP

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