By Graham Keeley
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spain is to uphold a ban on cruise liners from docking at its ports to stop the spread of COVID-19, according to a ministerial order published on Saturday.
Cruise liners carrying thousands of passengers regularly stop off at ports in the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Barcelona and Malaga, but were prohibited when Spain went into lockdown on March 14.
With their crowds of often elderly passengers, cruise ships have been especially vulnerable to outbreaks of the virus and have been barred from disembarking in several countries.
Spain's ban on the vessels will continue until the coronavirus epidemic is brought under control, according to the Official State Gazette, even as the country otherwise reopens to tourists in an effort to revive an industry hammered by the coronavirus lockdown.
The retention of the ban was described as a “proportionate, objective and non-discriminatory measure that is in line with the objective set by the WHO Emergency Committee to stop the spread of the virus”, the order said, referring to the World Health Organization.
Cruise liners form part of Spain's tourist sector which contributes 12% of GDP. In 2019 10 million cruise line passengers visited Spain.
(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by David Holmes)