Cruise Ships Can Get Ready to Set Sail Again, C.D.C. Says


Cruise ships can prepare to set sail again beginning Sunday under a conditional order issued by U.S. health officials that aims to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission at sea by requiring a host of measures, including testing and quarantine, all designed to keep crews and passengers safe.

No ship will set sail with passengers immediately, and the cruise tourism industry may not rebound anytime soon. Under new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, companies must be certified to sail by proving they can operate safely with crews onboard. To do so, they must carry out a simulated journey, or a number of simulated journeys, with unpaid guest volunteers or crew members playing the role of passengers.

The simulated journeys must provide regular onboard activities such as meal service and entertainment in common areas of the ship, while providing enough space for social distancing. Ships will be required to have laboratory capacity to ensure that routine testing for the coronavirus can be carried out at regular intervals, as well as when anyone embarked or disembarked from the vessel. Both crew members and passengers will wear masks in public spaces.

Symptomatic travelers on the ship will have to be isolated, and remaining passengers quarantined, and the efforts will be evaluated by the agency in order for operators to obtain certification to sail with commercial passengers.

Observers will monitor and evaluate the mock journeys to ensure adherence, he added. “If the outcome is not as desired, one has to ask: Is the plan not good enough, or is implementation not good enough?” Dr. Cetron said. “This is a virus that can be very unforgiving of a mistake.”

“We all recognize this virus is a formidable foe, and we’re going to be living with it for a while, and we need to adapt our systems to have maximum impact,” he added.

Ships will have fewer guests than in the past, and both crew members and passengers would be required to wear masks and to maintain social distancing, Dr. Cetron said. At first, new crew members joining a ship would not only be tested before boarding, but also be quarantined for 14 days. The crew would also be quarantined for 14 days before disembarking.

The quarantines would not apply to passengers, however. The C.D.C. 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.



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