U.S. ships' port calls in Hong Kong, S. China off during SARS outbreak
April 16, 2003
TOKYO — Until the outbreak of a mysterious and deadly form of pneumonia is controlled, no American warships will make port calls in Hong Kong or other ports in Southern China, Navy officials announced.
According to a 7th Fleet spokesman, at sea with the USS Blue Ridge, Pacific Command has placed a “temporary moratorium” on all but mission-essential travel to Hong Kong and China.
“This is consistent with advisories published by both the State Department and Centers for Disease Control,” said Cmdr. Matt Brown in an e-mailed statement.
“The Pacific Command will continue to monitor the situation along with appropriate health organizations, the State Department and CDC and will reevaluate the moratorium as the situation indicates,” Brown said.
Pacific command officials in Hawaii confirmed the “travel advisory.”
Lt. Cmdr. Jensin Sommer, a PACOM spokeswoman, said Monday that putting a temporary hold on any port calls to the affected area was a prudent measure.
“There will be no port calls to Hong Kong until the travel advisory expires,” Sommer said. “This is a prudent force health protection measure to minimize the risk of our sailors contracting SARS, and it is consistent with all of the warnings from the WHO and the State Department.”
Since November, Navy officials said, several U.S. warships have made port visits to Hong Kong.
Though they did not have a complete list of all the ships, the port visits included Sasebo’s USS Harpers Ferry, Yokosuka’s USS Kitty Hawk battle group and USS Blue Ridge, and California’s USS Constellation battle group.
Washington’s USS Paul F. Foster also made a port visit to Qingdao, another affected area, in November.
“No sailors from any of these units have exhibited symptoms, nor been diagnosed with SARS,” Brown said.
New SARS cases are being reported in Singapore, Vietnam and Philippines — among other popular Asian destinations — but no plans are being made to ban military visits to those areas, other Navy officials said.
The new order has already affected the recreational plans of 7th Fleet sailors. The USS Essex was to make a port call in Hong Kong on its way home from a routine cruise, several sailors said, but the port visit was canceled.
International health officials have warned there is no known cure or diagnosis for the virus, whose symptoms include dry cough, difficulty breathing and high fever.