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Australians Among Thousands Stuck On Cruise Ship After Coronavirus Scare

Six thousand people, reportedly including 27 Australians, have been forced to stay on board a cruise ship in Italy after a passenger was tested for coronavirus.

The 54-year-old woman from Macau and her husband are currently in isolation.

The pair had boarded Coasta Crociere's Costa Smeralda cruise ship last Saturday (local time) in the port of Savona before showing symptoms of the virus, including a fever.

Costa Smeralda cruise ship is seen docked at Civitavecchia port after one passenger fell ill with a high fever. Image: Getty

The mayor of the city of Civitavecchia said he asked authorities to prevent passengers from disembarking until it had been confirmed there were no cases of infection.

“I have asked the authorities not to permit the disembarkment until we are sure there is no risk,” Mayor Ernesto Tedesco said.

he cruise ship 'Costa Smeralda' is seen anchored in the port of Civitavecchia, northwest of Rome , Italy. Image: AAP

The ship invited medical experts from Rome's Spallanzani hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, to assess the woman. Early tests ruled out coronavirus.

It's believed more than 1,000 passengers are still waiting to disembark from the ship.

“There is no tension, they (my relatives) have eaten, everything works, they should have been able to leave the ship but they cannot,” Adriano Pavan, the father of a passenger on board with two children, told Reuters.

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Carla Configoni, the mother of a pregnant woman on board, said she had spoken to her daughter who was “very agitated”.

The ship sailed through Marseilles in France as well as Spanish cities, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca before arriving in Civitavecchia, north of Rome.

On Thursday, the World Health Organisation declared a global health emergency with cases of the coronavirus now present in 18 countries.

A passenger wearing a protective mask on arrival at Sydney International Airport in Sydney. Image: AAP

"The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries," Dr Ghebreyesus told reporters.

"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it."

WHO said it was concerned about mounting evidence in Germany, Vietnam and Japan of the virus being spread through human transmission.

"Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,"  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.

With Reuters

Contact Eden at egillespie@networkten.com.au