Uruguay turned away a cruise ship at a popular Atlantic coast resort Friday on grounds that it was unable to screen the 3,000 passengers on board for cases of coronavirus.
The MSC-operated ship Poesia arriving from Buenos Aires was expecting to disembark passengers at Punta del Este, but was turned away even though no-one on board was reported ill.
Tourism Minister German Cardoso said port authorities could not provide health screening for passengers "that an extreme situation such as this would require."
"That was the decision communicated from the navy to the captain of the ship to put to sea again and not come into port," the minister told the website of Uruguay daily El Pais.
Uruguay is one of the few remaining countries in Latin America with no confirmed infections of the new coronavirus and has begun putting preventive measures in place.
The health ministry on Friday recommended travellers arriving from areas hit by the pandemic "self-isolate" for 14 days, but so far this is not a mandatory requirement.
Ministers were to meet Friday to discuss further measures.
The government on Thursday cancelled a rock festival that was expected to draw 40,000 fans to Montevideo including from neighbouring Argentina and Brazil.
Sports authorities have banned fans from attending football matches, which are to be played to empty stadiums.