Coronavirus: Thousands allowed off cruise ship after scare

The Costa Smeralda cruis ship, seen at port in Civitavecchia Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Costa Smeralda cruise ship, carrying 6,000 people, is stuck at port near Rome

Six thousand people on board a cruise ship in Italy have been allowed to disembark after health officials said a Chinese passenger who had symptoms of coronavirus had tested negative.

The 54-year-old as well as her husband were held in isolation on the ship but tests confirmed she was not infected.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global health emergency.

The death toll from the outbreak has risen to 170 in China.

The Costa Smeralda cruise ship docked in the port of Civitavecchia, north of Rome. The woman who was suspected of being infected had reportedly flown from Hong Kong to join the cruise, and broke out in a fever while on board.

Samples were taken to Rome's Spallanzani hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, and returned negative, Italy's health ministry said.

Civitavecchia's mayor had asked authorities to prevent people from disembarking until medical tests had been carried out. Late on Thursday, passengers began getting off.

In a separate development, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed the first two cases of the virus in the country, involving two Chinese tourists, and stopped all flights between Italy and China.

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