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(LEAD) S. Korea to impose temporary entry ban on cruise ships over coronavirus

All News 15:05 February 10, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL/BUSAN, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will impose a temporary entry ban on international cruise ships to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus, government officials said Monday.

The announcement came amid growing concerns about luxury liners' vulnerability to the highly contagious virus as passengers and crew spend days or weeks together in a confined space.

"(The government) has canceled the planned entry by two cruise ships into (the southeastern port city) of Busan, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a press briefing.

The government will also ban cruise lines from docking at Busan on Feb. 23 and the southern island of Jeju on Feb. 24. Two other cruise ships set to arrive at Busan on Feb. 27 will also be banned.

Concerns about the spread of the virus on cruise ships have mounted amid news reports that 130 cases were found on a cruise ship currently in quarantine off the Japanese coast near Yokohama.

Foreign cruise lines appear to be choosing South Korean ports as an alternative to Chinese ones following the outbreak of the new coronavirus that has killed more than 900 people in China.

For cruise ships that left or traveled through countries where the virus has been reported in the past 14 days, if even one passenger or crew member shows fever or other symptoms of respiratory disease, the Busan Port Authority will not permit any person to disembark at its port.

South Korea said Monday it is testing more than 800 people in quarantine for the virus, with the number of confirmed cases unchanged at 27.

The oceans ministry said it will notify cruise ship operators and provincial governments of its decision on the entry ban.

But the government will grant entry in cases where such vessels dock at Korean ports for oil and supplies.

This photo, taken Feb. 9, 2020, shows the international passenger terminal at the port in the southeastern city of Busan. Cruise ships canceled their stops at the port amid South Korea's stepped-up quarantine process for a new strain of coronavirus. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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