CDC extends no sail order for US cruise ships through September as COVID-19 spreads

With COVID-19 continuing to spread in the United States, the CDC has been forced to extend its no sail order for cruise ships through September, putting an end to hopes of cruises re-starting from US ports in August.

“This order continues to suspend passenger operations on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction,” the CDC said in an advisory released Thursday.

Cruise ships docks in Miami (archive)

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The CDC said that although it supports the CLIA’s announcement of a voluntary extension of suspension of operation by its member companies, it has extended its No Sail Order to ensure that passenger operations on cruise ships do not resume prematurely.

Cumulative CDC data from March 1st through July 10th, 2020, shows 2,973 COVID-19 or COVID-like illness cases on cruise ships, in addition to 34 deaths, the agency said.

Diamond Princess was the first cruise ship to be hit by a large-scale Coronavirus outbreak

The outbreaks affected around 80% of its cruise ships within US jurisdiction, according to the CDC, meaning of the 123 cruise ships in US water between March and July, 99 of them suffered Coronavirus outbreaks.

As of July 3, nine of the 49 ships remaining under the No Sail Order have ongoing or resolving outbreaks. According to U.S. Coast Guard data, as of July 10th, 2020, there are 67 ships with 14,702 crew onboard.

The renewed no-sail order has forced the world’s major cruise lines to extend their pause in global operations. It had been hoped that in August or September, major lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL might resume limited cruises.

Carnival had hoped to resume limited cruises from the US in August

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According to the CDC, cruise ships present a particularly challenging environment for the spread of the virus.

“On cruise ships, passengers and crew share spaces that are more crowded than most urban settings,” the CDC said in a statement. “Even when only essential crew are on board, ongoing spread of COVID-19 still occurs.”

“If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, passengers and crew on board would be at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and those that work or travel on cruise ships would place substantial unnecessary risk on healthcare workers, port personnel and federal partners,” it added.

Cruise lines like MSC Cruises, Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean and others are currently working with the CDC to develop on-board safety protocols to protect the health of passengers and crew in the aftermath of the pandemic.

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