The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a report that shows signs of considerable worry of health and safety measures taken by a few US ship companies sailing the seas amid a pandemic.
Cumulative data from the CDC report suggests that the period of March 1st to July 10th, revealed a total of 2973 COVID or COVID-like cases on cruise ships, with over 99 outbreaks on 123 ships. This meant that almost 80% of the operational ships had been affected.
The report further highlighted that only 20 of the 49 cruise ships test members on board, going against the CDC recommendation of regular, random testing of the crew. Many cruise lines do not conduct periodic testing of its symptomatic or asymptomatic members. The lack of taking this action results in positive cases among the crew once they are finally repatriated.
The notice also mentions events of outbreaks on cruise ships Including the Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, and Adventure of the Seas, and Princess cruises among others, wherein the failure of testing led to positive cases. This “raised questions about corporate negligence and fleet safety” on the side of the management.
The report further went on to write that the outbreaks affect the already-burdened public health officials as medical evacuation efforts require resource-intensive operations to repatriate passengers and crew to the shore. As of July 10th, the CDC has worked with cruise ships to safely disembark and return around 8825 crew members and 314 US citizens and residents through cumbersome disembarkation processes.
Another instance was that of Norwegian Cruise Line Holding Ltd and their inadequate measures of required medical care leading to allegations against the issue of “non-compliance” with the orders by CDC. The company, in its letter, cited “the difficulty in achieving and mandating social distancing among crew members at all times”, as per CDC’s report.
Cruise ship operators are now saying that they are developing safety protocols to resume services. However, the increased risk of transmission among the crew and passengers due to companies not adhering strictly to social distancing, or cancelling buffets and social gatherings, and/or not relocating crew to single-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms remains to be a red-flag for passengers.