MSC Opera was diverted away from Malta after doctors reportedly threatened industrial action if the ship docked amid coronavirus concerns.

MSC Cruises agreed for the ship not enter the port of Valletta on Friday to “avoid unnecessary public unrest”.

The island’s government said the decision followed “public alarm raised by misleading information” and blamed an unnamed local media outlet.

Both the Maltese government and the cruise line said there were no cases on the ship which has 2,302 passengers and crew on board.

Health authorities in Austria informed the line on Wednesday that an Austrian passenger who had been on a previous MSC Opera cruise had tested positive for Covid-19. The passenger had returned to his home country through northern Italy on February 28 after disembarking in Genoa.

The company said: “As announced by the office of the prime minister of Malta, MSC Cruises has agreed to deviate the course of MSC Opera to support the wish of the local authorities to avoid unnecessary public unrest.

“This unfortunate situation was caused locally by misinformation that had circulated regarding the medical conditions of the ship.

“In his statement, the prime minister also stressed that their review of the ship’s medical records confirmed her clean bill of health – and ‘there is no case of coronavirus on board the MSC Opera’ – as also supported by MSC Opera having been cleared by local health authorities in each port the ship had called prior to today during this cruise.”

The ship’s next port of call was Messina in Italy on Sunday as scheduled.

“There are no passengers or crew members currently on board the ship who have or have had any flu-like symptoms,” MSC Cruises added.

“The health and safety of our passengers and crew will always remain our top priority.”