A cruise ship carrying more than 2,000 passengers docked in Sicily on Saturday after it was not allowed to enter Malta following a public outcry about coronavirus infection fears. 

The MSC Opera arrived in the northeast city of Messina after it was forced to cancel plans for an unscheduled stop in Malta, Italian media have reported.  

On Friday afternoon the Maltese government had said the decision to not allow the vessel into Malta had been taken “following public alarm raised by misleading information given by a local media outlet through a story riddled with partial truths and erroneous details”. 

The government statement did not name the media outlet in question but said that it had decided to reroute the ship “so as to avoid further concern among the Maltese public”. 

It said the decision to reroute the ship was taken mutually, together with ship operators MSC Cruises. 

MSC Cruises insists that “no passengers or crew members currently on board the ship have or have had any flu-like symptoms.”

Maltese doctors had threatened industrial action if the cruise ship, which was due to arrive in Malta at 6pm on Friday, was allowed to dock. 

Concerns about the ship were sparked after a former passenger, an Austrian man, was diagnosed with COVID-19. 

The 2,302 passengers aboard the ship have been given the all-clear by medical authorities, and in its statement the government noted that all the evidence was that "there is no case of Coronavirus on board". 

Meanwhile back in Messina, Italian authorities have said that passengers will be allowed to disembark and will be subjected to screening by thermal scanners. 

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Amended March 7: An earlier version of this article stated that the MSC Opera had been scheduled to make a stop in Malta. The planned stop, since cancelled, was unscheduled.

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