Coronavirus infects more than 40 on Norwegian cruise ship as company admits mistakes
A Norwegian cruise ship line halted all trips and apologized Monday for procedural errors after an outbreak of coronavirus on one ship infected at least five passengers and 36 crew members.
The 41 people on the MS Roald Amundsen who tested positive have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromso, north of the Arctic Circle, where the ship currently is docked.
“A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement. He added that the company, which sails along Norway’s picturesque coast between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the north, is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling.”
The cruise line has contacted passengers who had been on the Amundsen for its July 17-24 and July 25-31 trips from Bergen to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, which is known for its polar bears.
All 158 crew members on the ship have been tested and 122 were negative. There were 209 guests on the first voyage and 178 guests on the second voyage.
But since the cruise line often acts like a local ferry, stopping in at port after port along Norway’s western coast, the coronavirus may not have been contained onboard. Some passengers disembarked along the route and may have spread the coronavirus to their local communities.
Uncruise Adventures, Lindblad Expeditions and others offer charter ship adventures while big-ship cruise travel is on hold.
The municipality of Tromso is urging people who have traveled on the ship or anyone in contact with the ship to get in touch with health authorities. A total of 69 municipalities in Norway have been affected, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
It’s not known how the outbreak began since guests come from all over the world. NTB said 33 of the 36 crew members who have tested positive came from the Philippines, and the others came from Norway, France and Germany.
Over the weekend, Skjeldam said cruise ship officials did not know that they should have notified the passengers after the first case was reported Friday, adding that they followed the advice of the ship’s doctors.
But Line Vold of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said its advice was to inform passengers and crew as soon as possible so that they could monitor their health and go into quarantine if needed.
The rise in coronavirus cases nationwide is keeping cruise ships from being allowed to sail.
“We have made mistakes. On behalf of all of us in Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take full responsibility,” Skjeldam said.
The Hurtigruten line says the operations of three ships — MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen — have been halted for an indefinite period.
The Tromso-based Hurtigruten was one of the first companies to resume sailing after the pandemic hit and started cruises to Norway out of Hamburg, northern Germany, in June with a single ship. It added cruises to Svalbard in July, Norwegian media reported.
In Italy, the Costa Crociere cruise ship line said Sunday that three crew members from two ships in Civitavecchia, near Rome, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The cruise company said two assigned to the Costa Deliziosa were hospitalized in good condition, and a third, assigned to the Costa Favolosa, was in isolation on the ship.
Cruise lines are tightening health protocols that determine who can and can’t sail.
The Italian cruise company, which is part of Carnival Corp., said the crews of both ships were being screened “in view of the possible relaunch of our cruises, as soon as the government gives the authorization.” The Cabinet is meeting on the matter Sunday.
Costa Crociere said that all crew members were tested for the coronavirus before leaving their countries, then undergo a second test once they arrive in Italy, after which they are put under a two-week monitoring period.
Cruise lines stopped sailing in mid-March after several high-profile coronavirus outbreaks at sea. More than 710 people fell ill aboard Carnival’s Diamond Princess cruise ship while it was quarantined off Japan and 13 people died.
A German cruise ship last week set sail from Hamburg, testing procedures for how cruise ships can operate safely during the pandemic. The ship sailed with less than 50% capacity and only went on a four-day trip at sea with no stops at other ports.
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