Mexico says "no thanks" to Ebola cruise ship

Yesterday Noah introduced you all to the exciting new vacation opportunity which some have begun calling Ebola Cruise. The Carnival Magic somehow wound up setting sail with one of the Texas health care workers who may have been in contact with some of the lab specimens from Thomas Eric Duncan prior to his death from the Ebola virus. To be clear, it seem impossible that Carnival could have had any way to know this was the case, and the fault – if any is to be found – should not lie with their management, but with the CDC and the teams monitoring the hospital workers.

Still, the word spread quickly and the ship was eventually asked not to put in to port for one of its scheduled stops in Mexico. And according to reports this morning on CNN, this decision was made despite direct appeals to the Mexican government from Secretary of State John Kerry.

The cruise ship carrying a Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Dallas Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan is headed back to the United States after Mexican authorities failed to grant permission for the ship to dock off the coast of Cozumel, according to a Carnival spokeswoman.

The Carnival Magic had been waiting off the Mexican coast since Friday morning for its scheduled port visit. Mexican authorities still hadn’t given clearance by noon, so the ship continued to its home port of Galveston, Tex., where it was due back on Sunday, according to Carnival.

An earlier report from a source in Belize had – it seems erroneously – claimed two alarming items; one that the ship was also refused access at Belize City, and even more alarmingly, that the health care worker and her “travel partner” were exhibiting “symptoms of Ebola.” Both of these claims were later refuted, with the cruise line reporting that the Belize visit went as planned, but the worker and her partner remained in voluntary isolation in their cabin. Also, they appear to be fine.

The health worker, a lab supervisor who has not been named, has shown no symptoms of the disease but remains on board and in voluntary isolation, according to Carnival. “We greatly regret that this situation, which was completely beyond our control, precluded the ship from making its scheduled visit to Cozumel and the resulting disappointment it has caused our guests,” read a statement from Carnival.

A cruise ship is probably one of the worst environments for this sort of panic. Once the word is out that a potential Ebola source is on board, every person who forgets their Dramamine, drinks too much on the rolling deck or gets hold of a bad shrimp will suddenly be suspected of being a carrier. It’s not the sort of rumor you want running loose in what was supposed to be a festive, vacation atmosphere.

But the remarkable part of this story is not what happened on the cruise ship, nor even what might have happened. What we might find truly amazing is the way that Mexico (!) was able to rapidly arrive at such a policy decision. In the United States we remain unable to invoke a travel ban while hundreds of visa holders fly into our airports each week. In Africa, Kenya Airways, British Airways, Air Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria’s Arik Air all have full or partial bans on flights from the Ebola stricken nations. Mexico was able to take a look at the situation and tell the cruise ship to move along.

There’s some sort of disconnect here.