02 May Scientology cruise ship quarantined off St Lucia coast over…
A cruise ship operated by the Church of Scientology has been quarantined off the coast of St Lucia in the Caribbean following a confirmed case of measles onboard.
Officials on the island nation banned any passengers or crew members from leaving the ship Tuesday after receiving news of the measles case that morning.
In a statement posted to YouTube, Merlene Fredericks James, the country’s top health official, said officials worked with the Pan American Health Organization to make the decision. She pointed to measles outbreaks in the US as the primary motivation for taking the extreme step of caution.
“Measles, we know, is a highly infectious disease … Persons who have taken note of the news would be aware of the current situation in the United States, where there are outbreaks of measles,” James said. “Because of the risk of potential infection, not just from the confirmed measles case but from other persons who may be on the boat at the time, we thought it prudent to make the decision not to let anyone disembark.”
The number of measles cases in the US has skyrocketed in 2019, hitting a 25-year high with more than 700 confirmed cases in the country.
Health experts and government officials have attributed the growing anti-vaccination movement – fed by misinformation about vaccinations – as the main cause behind the outbreak.
Three hundred passengers and crew members are onboard the vessel, which has been named as Freewinds, a 440ft cruise ship belonging to the Church of Scientology whose home port is in Curaçao.
It was scheduled to depart the island nation late Thursday morning, according to NBC News. Its next destination is currently unknown.
Onboard, the church hosts “a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in the Scientology religion”, according to the church’s website. The Church of Scientology did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
Though some high-profile Scientologists have come out against vaccinations, the church has not taken a specific position on the issue. On its website, the church says Scientologists seek standard medical care when ill.
“Scientologists seek conventional medical treatment for illnesses and injuries. Scientologists use prescription drugs when physically ill and also rely on the advice and treatment of physicians,” according to the church’s website.