Police use teargas as angry protesters target cruise ship over coronavirus fears

Teargas was used against violent protesters as they targeted British cruise ship passengers over fears of coronavirus.

Holidaymakers onboard a Princess Cruises liner from the UK, as well as Australia and New Zealand, came under attack in Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning as they came into dock.

The Sun Princess – owned by the same company as the Diamond Princess which was forced into lockdown in Yokohama due to the deadly virus – was carrying two thousand passengers, reports the Guardian .

Yannis Latchimy, one of around 30 protesters, said: "We don’t know if these people are sick – they were not tested. It is very dangerous."

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Police were forced to intervene when the protesters tried to prevent passengers leaving the port, with some throwing pebbles and bottles at security forces.

They had initially gathered at the north-western port to demand those departing the ship be subjected to health checks to allay any fears the Covid-19 strain would take hold on the island.

Mr Latchimy went on to say: "Of course we are not against the arrival of tourists, they are necessary for the development of our economy.

"We just want to be sure that there is no risk of the coronavirus propagating."

No passengers took the face masks being offered by a regional health authority agent at the port or were seen having their temperature taken, according to reports.

The Sun Princess is due to depart for Mauritius on Sunday.

The ship was previously turned away from Madagascar on February 13 because the full 14-day incubation period had not passed from its stopover in Thailand where coronavirus is rife.

No cases of the flu-like virus have been reported in Réunion.

There are now over 90,000 global cases with more than 3,100 people having died since the initial break out in Chinese city Wuhan in December.

In the UK, meanwhile, the number of cases jumped up to 51 from 39 on Tuesday, though 12 patients have recovered.

NHS England has categorised the novel coronavirus at a level 4 incident – the highest level of emergency.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said up to 80 per cent of Brits could catch the virus in a worst case scenario and  one per cent of those infected may die. 

Meanwhile, supermarkets  have drawn up "feed the nation"  plans to cope with panic buying.

Sick leave rules could also be changed to allow people to sign themselves off work for two weeks in response to coronavirus fears, Health Secretary Matt Hancock indicated.

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