Cruise industry rages over CDC’s plan to keep travelers safe from COVID at sea


Enlarge / YOKOHAMA, JAPAN – FEBRUARY 10: A member of the media wears a face mask while walking past the Diamond princess cruise.

The cruise industry is quite salty about the latest federal guidance for safe boating in the event of a pandemic, calling it “burdensome” and “unworkable.” “

The new guidance is an updated phase of the Framework for Conditional Navigation Order (CSO), released April 2 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it doesn’t require vaccinations for all cruise ship passengers and personnel, it does recommend vaccinations and requires additional layers of health measures to try to give a COVID-19 outbreak on board, which is extremely difficult to do in crowded people. , highly social vessels.

Among several changes, the guide requires cruise operators to increase the frequency with which they report the number of COVID-19 cases on board, increasing reports from weekly to daily. It also requires cruise lines to implement new routine tests for crew members. In addition, the guide requires cruise lines to have agreements in place with port authorities and local health authorities to ensure that, in the event of an outbreak, there is the coordination and infrastructure necessary to quarantine, isolate and treat in a manner safe for passengers and crew on the ground. .

Once those requirements are met, cruise operators can conduct mock cruises with volunteer passengers and, if all goes well, apply for a “Conditional Boating Certificate.”

In a statement released Monday, the leading industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association issued a statement calling the new guidance “unduly burdensome, largely unworkable.”

Disappointing

The CLIA states that the health guide “deprives American workers of participating in the economic recovery” and does not provide “any discernible way forward or a timeline for the resumption” of cruises originating in the country. The group ended its statement by urging the Biden administration to “consider the ample evidence supporting the CSO’s lifting this month to allow planning for a controlled return to service this summer.”

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio told The Washington Post in an interview Monday that the company was “disappointed” by the latest guidance from the CDC. “We thought it was a step backwards, frankly,” Del Rio said.

The cruise executive sent a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday promoting the cruise company’s plan to safely resume sailing, which includes mandatory vaccinations for all passengers and employees. Del Rio objected to the agency’s additional requirements, regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC is unlikely to move on the issue. In its announcement of the guide, the agency noted that “Navigating safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult. While the cruise ship will always present some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the CSO phases will ensure that cruise passenger operations are conducted in a manner that protects the crew members, passengers and staff of the cruise ship. port, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern. . “

In the early days of the pandemic, cruise ships were among the first high-profile victims of COVID-19 and experienced devastating outbreaks that drew international attention. Among the most memorable was the Diamond princess, which was quarantined for weeks in a Japanese port in February 2020 amid a scorching outbreak. At one point, the luxury liner had the largest cluster of COVID-19 outside of China, where the pandemic began. In total, 712 of the 3,711 passengers and crew on the ship were infected, 37 required intensive care and nine died.

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