As incoming trips from Africa were banned almost worldwide in light of the appearance of the Omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2, Argentine authorities had no trouble allowing a cruise ship steaming from Cape Verde to moor in Buenos Aires.... because “it came from Asia.”
At least that was how Infobae reported the arrival of the Hamburg cruise ship, although Health Minister Carla Vizzotti eventually denied such a geographical misinterpretation had actually existed.
The Hamburg arrived in Buenos Aires Friday afternoon and the alleged sanitary error was detected 13 hours later, after the crew and some 300 passengers had already been cleared to come ashore.
National Border Health Directorate officials Saturday noticed the Hamburg had not gone through proper checkups as a ship arriving from a blacklisted area, since it was not believed to be the case because one of the inspector in charge of the operation failed to tell Africa from Asia, according to Infobae.
Boluda [female version of 'stupid'], this ship comes from Cape Verde, isn't that in Africa?, Infobae quoted one of the officials as asking the other inspector with regards to the Bahamas-flagged MS Hamburg.
Argentina had mandated a 10-day quarantine in addition to two negative PCR tests to travelers arriving from African nations. It is true, however, that at the time the Hamburg had set sail six days earlier there were no reports of Omicron, but it is also true Argentine officials had been instructed to be vigilant on possible arrivals from Africa to prevent the entry of this new strain into the country.
The MS Hamburg had docked in Buenos Aires Friday afternoon just minutes after 7pm, when all formalities were complied with. On Saturday, one of the inspectors noticed Cape Verde was in Africa and not in Asia, as mistakenly entered in Border Health reports, that is 13 hours after people had already been cleared to disembark.
When the error was detected, passengers and crew were told their ship was being placed under quarantine and nobody could go ashore. Even Coast Guard officers who went aboard had to be isolated after canvassing Hamburg in search of Omicron.
The cruise ship had plans to sail on to Mar del Plata. The Montevideo stopover has been called off and Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia are still in doubt.
In any case, Vizzotti insisted the information released about the cruise ship is false. The ship gave notice of a positive case, an operation was scheduled and more than 300 PCRs were carried out in 24 hours. All of them were negative, including the case [first recorded as positive], who continues to be isolated along with their close contacts, the minister said on Twitter.
No one consulted us before carrying the story, which would have prevented incorrect information from being disseminated, Vizzotti stressed. She also insisted news outlets should check their information with official and reliable sources.