Cruise ship with Kiwis on board met with fierce protests at Réunion Island, despite no coronavirus

A cruise ship in the Indian Ocean with Kiwis and Australians on board has been met with fierce protests and diverted away from two countries, despite none of the passengers having the coronavirus COVID-19.

The Sun Princess docked at Réunion Island - a French territory in the Indian Ocean off Africa's coast - at the weekend, but were met by protesters, local media reported.

Passenger Rob Pascoe, a New Zealander, reportedly said the protesters - who were screaming and throwing rocks - left some passengers in distress. They were told by the ship's captain to get back on the ship.

"People feared for their safety," Pascoe told NZME. 

"It's just unfortunate - when we left Australia this global fear hadn't been really developed."

Since its emergence in central China in late December, COVID-19 has killed at least 2990 people and infected more than 87,000, according to official statistics. There are fears this is an underestimate, however.

New Zealand has had only one reported case so far - a plane passenger who came from Iran last week. They're in Auckland City Hospital in a stable but improving condition, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday.

The virus' spread around the world was boosted when hundreds aboard a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, got infected. After a short quarantine off the coast of Japan, many of those on board were allowed to return home - some taking the virus with them.

According to NZME, the Sun Princess currently has more than 2000 people on board.

"One of the demonstrators was arrested by police," local newspaper Imaz Presse Réunion reported. "The demonstrators set fire to several garbage cans."

On Monday morning, the Voyager of the Seas ship docked at Port of Tauranga after it was diverted from Vanuatu due to several people falling ill.

The Ministry of Health says the seven onboard who are unwell are not believed to have coronavirus - but typical influenza, or gastroenteritis. 

There is believed to be no risk of the coronavirus COVID-19 from the vessel.