Egypt said on Saturday a total of 45 people on board the A-Sara in Luxor had tested positive for the new coronavirus, making the ship the site of the biggest cluster of cases so far in Egypt. The health ministry said the source of infection was a Taiwanese-American woman who had been on the same ship in January.
The ship is now under quarantine at a site some 20 kilometres away from the city of Luxor.
“Everything is under control,” Alaa, a staff member on the ship told Ahram Online on Sunday, while declining to elaborate or give any more details. A receptionist on the ship contacted by Ahram Online was also tight-lipped about the situation, saying that only health ministry officials can now comment on the matter.
Until Friday, Egypt had detected just three cases of the flu-like virus in the country, including one Egyptian who Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Saturday was in “critical condition.”
Egyptian officials said 11 suspected cases among the 45 on the Luxor ship, who were all asymptomatic, later tested negative, and that all foreigners testing negative can leave the country one day after test results.
The country on Sunday announced its first coronavirus fatality, a 60-year-old German tourist who had been in Luxor and had been sent to a hospital in the Red Sea resort city of Hurghada for treatment.
The recent surge in cases and the isolation of those affected has caused panic among staff members aboard other cruise ships that operate on the popular route between the touristic hubs of Luxor and Aswan.
Ministers of health, tourism, and civil aviation in Egypt on Sunday travelled to Luxor to check quarantine measures at the city’s airport and toured Luxor’s ancient Karnak temple in an attempt to reassure visitors that the city is safe.
“Those working in tourism and their families, I’m telling you we’re monitoring [things] closely and you are safe with us, and together we can get through this time,” Zayed told reporters in Luxor, while urging people to be “cautious about reactions and don’t exaggerate.”