A South African crew member aboard Norwegian Breakaway is suspected of carrying the Omicron variant, Louisiana officials confirmed Tuesday amid a larger outbreak aboard the ship.
At least 17 crew and passengers aboard Norwegian Breakaway have tested positive for COVID-19, with one South African crew member believed to be infected with the Omicron variant.
It isn’t clear what led authorities to believe the crew member was infected with the Omicron variant beyond his nationality (the variant was first reported in South Africa last month).
The South African crew member was among 17 passengers and crew who were disembarked in New Orleans at the end of Norwegian Breakaway’s Caribbean cruise on Monday.
Norwegian Cruise Line said the crew member was in isolation for the entirety of the cruise that departed New Orleans on November 28th, carrying more than 3,200 people, and made stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico.
All passengers aboard the ship were tested for COVID-19 before they disembarked, according to Louisiana health officials quoted by Reuters, but it isn’t clear if they were tested for the Omicron variant specifically.
Those who tested positive were either transported to their residences in a personal vehicle or are self-isolating in accommodations provided by Norwegian Cruise Line. Details were not provided on the number of passengers who tested positive prior to disembarking.
All major cruise operators departing from US ports, including Norwegian Cruise Line, require guests and crew to be fully vaccinated. While some allow a small portion of unvaccinated guests in order to accomodate families with young children, NCL does not.
The cruise line also requires all guests with cruise embarkation dates through January 16th, 2022 to take a COVID-19 antigen test prior to boarding.
In response to the outbreak, Norwegian Cruise Line has tightened its health and safety protocols aboard the ship, which has now departed on a new cruise.
The cruise line said in its statement that passengers sailing on Norwegian Breakaway’s next trip “must wear masks while indoors except while actively eating or drinking and will be tested twice during the cruise.”
Up until now, fully vaccinated guests on US sailings have not been required to wear masks, only European itineraries implement this rule.