A cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists, including Indians, 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 in Egypt released a statement Friday saying they'd found a dozen Egyptian crew members on the ship had contracted the fast-spreading virus, but did not show symptoms.
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 crew will remain quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results.
This brought the total number of cases in Egypt to 15. It came just days after three people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. 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.
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 5,000 confirmed cases, the vast majority in Iran.
The previous two cases in Egypt were a Chinese and a Canadian national, then an Egyptian who was in Serbia and had stayed for 12 hours in France before arriving in Cairo. Egyptian authorities said Friday that they have tested over 2,500 people who were found not to have the virus, including foreign nationals.
The new and fast-spreading coronavirus could deliver a major below 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.
The country's national air carrier, Egypt Air, has suspended direct flights to China since late January. The virus, which originated in China, has infected more than 100,000 people globally.
(In arrangement with PTI)