Cruise ships can prepare to return to sea starting Sunday under a conditional order issued by U.S. health officials designed to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission at sea by taking a number of measures, including testing and quarantine, all designed to keep crews and crews safe.
No ship is going to set sail with passengers immediately, and the cruise tourism industry may not recover anytime soon. Under the new guidelines issued on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, companies must be certified to sail by demonstrating that they can work safely with crews on board. To do this, they must undertake a simulated trip or series of simulated trips, with unpaid volunteer guests or crew members playing the role of passengers.
The simulated voyages must provide regular onboard activities such as meal service and entertainment in the ship’s public areas while also providing enough space for social distancing. The ships must have laboratory capacity to ensure that routine tests for the coronavirus can be carried out at regular intervals and when people get on and off. Both crew members and passengers wear masks in public spaces.
Symptomatic travelers on the ship must be isolated and the remaining passengers quarantined. Efforts will be assessed by the agency in order for operators to obtain certification for sailing with commercial passengers.
The CDC outlined the step-by-step approach and affirmed in a statement: “Safe and responsible cruises during a global pandemic are very challenging.”
The Federal Health Office had tried to extend the no-sail order issued in March of last year until next February. But the White House blocked the order in an overt attempt to avoid alienating the powerful Florida tourism industry, one of the swing states that could determine the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election.
“This framework provides a way to resume safe and responsible sailing,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the CDC. “It will reduce the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from triggering outbreaks in ports.” and in the communities in which they live. “
The framework outlined by the CDC is based on a report released on September 21 by the Healthy Sail Panel, an alliance of industry leaders and non-governmental experts convened by the Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and convened over several months . ultimately develop 74 recommendations. CDC representatives acted as observers at the meetings, said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of global migration and quarantine at the CDC.
The agency later used the framework to develop the conditional sailing guidelines, which include the step-by-step approach to resuming operations, said Dr. Cetron.
Observers will monitor and evaluate the bogus trips to ensure compliance, he added. “If the result is not what you want, you have to ask yourself: Is the plan not good enough or is the implementation not good enough?” Said Dr. Cetron. “This is a virus that can make a mistake very unforgiving.”
“We all know this virus is a formidable enemy and we will live with it for a while and we need to adjust our systems to get the maximum impact,” he added.
Ships will have fewer guests than in the past, and both crew members and passengers will have to wear masks and maintain social distance, said Dr. Cetron. New crew members who join a ship are not only tested before boarding, but are also quarantined for 14 days. The crew would be quarantined for 14 days before disembarking.
However, the quarantines would not apply to passengers. The CDC said passengers would instead be tested twice before boarding, he said. The guidelines will continue to be improved and “tweaked” along the way, he added.
The world’s major cruise lines have been decommissioned without sails on orders for months as the pandemic swept the world after tourists and crews docked aboard ships such as the Diamond Princess and stranded for weeks as infection rates rose on board.
Many cruise companies, such as Royal Caribbean, had already announced that they would not resume sailing until December. Some have canceled future crossings – Carnival Cruise, for example, has canceled all departures through December 31, as well as some departures in 2021 and 2022 The spread of infections is spreading and a return to the cruise ship soon remains in doubt.
The No-Sail order has been extended several times since March, but expires on Saturday.
The CDC website states that scientific evidence suggests that cruise lines – which bring travelers from around the world together to live in close proximity with crew members where social distancing is difficult to maintain – “are at higher risk for the transmission of Covid 19 as other environments ”. and that cruise ship outbreaks “pose a risk to the rapid spread of disease beyond voyage and into communities around the world”.
Asymptomatic and minor illnesses can easily go undetected, allowing the coronavirus to spread covertly, which spreads through microscopic airborne droplets. Even when cases are identified, isolation and quarantine are difficult.
A notorious example was the Diamond Princess outbreak after picking up a single infected passenger on January 20th. A month later, more than 700 of the 3,711 on board tested positive. Thirty-seven people had to receive intensive care, nine died.