Coronavirus outbreak on Norwegian cruise ship, 36 positive tests

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Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said he was “very sorry” after 35 crew members and one passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on some of the first international cruises to operate since the global pandemic began. put an end to virtually all cruise traffic in the world.

Nearly 400 passengers now face a mandatory 10-day quarantine, but the company is criticized for failing to reach passengers quickly enough.

Two crew members fell ill

Two crew members had been isolated for several days after falling ill after returning from a week-long cruise to Svalbard on the MS Roald Amundsen. Upon arrival in Tromsø, in northern Norway, the two tested positive for COVID-19.

Following the news, the rest of the crew were tested. A passenger on a similar trip the previous week had also tested positive. A third cruise scheduled for next week was immediately canceled.

The ship remains docked in Tromsø, where four members of the crew have been admitted to hospital. These are the first cases of coronavirus at Tromsø hospital since early June.

Mayor of Tromsø fears local epidemic

Tromsø mayor Gunnar Wilhelmsen sharply criticized Hurtigruten for letting hundreds of passengers leave the ship before the extent of the outbreak was known.

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The cruise line has still not been able to reach a small number of passengers, which risks spreading a potential infection. Wilhelmsen told local newspaper Nordlys he now fears an epidemic in the city.

At a press conference, Norwegian Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie said how important it is for passengers to now comply with the mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Too early?

Hurtigruten rolled the dice by choosing to return to the waters earlier than many other cruise lines. With Norway now grappling with a potential public health crisis, the cruise line faces a public relations disaster just weeks after announcing a slew of new cruise routes to Europe for 2021.

In mid-June, Hurtigruten’s Norwegian coastal ferry service began a slow return to normal operations. On June 26, the company restarted its expedition cruises with a special 15-day cruise from Germany to the Norwegian fjords, followed by a series of cruises to Svalbard.

All ships were operating below capacity to increase opportunities for adequate social distancing. Despite the outbreak, a passenger told NRK infection control was taken “very seriously” on board, with frequent reminders to ensure social distancing and hygiene.

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