FUKUOKA -- The mayor of this southwestern Japan city has said cruise ships coming from mainland China to the local Port of Hakata should be turned away to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, according to a Jan. 30 post on his blog.
Offering his personal views, Soichiro Takashima wrote, "I think that for the time being cruise ships from mainland China that wish to dock the Port of Hakata should be refused." The remarks appear to have been written to respond to residents' anxieties.
The mayor continued, "There are many people who are primarily concerned by the movements of cruise ships, which bring in large numbers of people into the country at one time." In response to these worries, "The Fukuoka Municipal Government asked central government agencies if we can refuse port entries and aircraft landings, but the response came back that it's currently not possible."
According to the city government, on the day of Takashima's post, it inquired with the Fukuoka Coast Guard Office and Fukuoka Regional Immigration Bureau as to whether it could refuse entries.
The coast guard office said laws relating to port entries do not include provisions for infectious diseases. The immigration bureau also said that, even for certain infectious disease designations that allow for compulsory hospitalization, passengers not known to be carrying the disease cannot be refused entry.
The city government retains authority over permission to use the quays at the Port of Hakata, but it stated, "We received an explanation from the central government that we can't refuse them (landing permission)," and plans to see how things develop.
In 2019, the Port of Hakata was the second most popular point of call for cruise ships arriving in Japan, with a report from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism stating that 229 of the vessels entered the port that year.
(Japanese original by Sayo Kato, Kyushu News Department)