Federal health officials on Friday issued new rules that will enable large cruise ships to start sailing again in US waters, though not immediately. Among the requirements spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Ship owners must test all passengers and crew at the start and end of all voyages, which are limited to seven days.
In mid-March, the CDC ordered cruise ships to stop sailing to US ports because several outbreaks convinced officials that the vessels were potential cauldrons of infection. The order was renewed a few times, with the latest renewal set to expire Saturday.
The new guidelines effectively bring the no-sail order to an end.
To resume carrying passengers, the companies have to demonstrate they have procedures for testing, quarantining and isolating passengers and crew. They will have to build test labs on all ships, and make their own arrangements to isolate or quarantine passengers on shore if needed. Before being allowed to sail, they will have to conduct mock voyages with volunteers playing passengers who get sick, the CDC said.
All of this will take time, possibly months, a CDC spokesperson said.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency’s director, in a statement. “It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live.”
The CDC developed the criteria with input from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, an agency spokesperson said.
The health agency said it could force limits on passenger capacity, but the framework doesn’t spell out specifics.
Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) said in a statement that it is, “guided by the recommendations of leading experts in health and science, including the Healthy Sail Panel (HSP), our members are 100% committed to helping to protect the health of our guests, our crew and the communities we serve, and are prepared to implement multiple layers of protocols informed by the latest scientific and medical knowledge.
“We will continue to evolve our approach as circumstances evolve. The economic consequences of the ongoing suspension of service are felt in communities across the United States and with hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake, we are committed to resume sailing in a responsible manner that keeps public health in the forefront. We look forward to reviewing the Order in greater detail and working with the CDC to advance a return to cruising from US ports.”
Cruise Lines sailing out of the US and CLIA members have been in a voluntary suspension for over seven month. The CDC No-Sail order has been extended several times.
CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead said the “Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations, which were adopted by CLIA’s Global of Directors earlier this month, have been considered and will serve as an important foundation.
“The cruise industry and the CDC have a long track record of working together in the interest of public health, and we look forward to continuing to build upon this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from US ports. With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the US is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health.”
The original no-sail order was influenced by an outbreak on the Diamond Princess early this year, which resulted in more than 700 people testing positive and nine reported deaths. At least 159 were infected on the Grand Princess, including eight who died.
Craighead said the CDC document is “an important step toward returning our ships to service from US ports.”
Source: Travel Industry Today
CARRY ON CRUISING: No-sail order ends but new procedures could take some time