A number of passengers aboard MSC Orchestra in Durban, South Africa have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the cruise ship into lockdown upon her return to port.
MSC Orchestra arrived back in port on Friday, with several cases of COVID-19 onboard, prompting authorities to place the ship on lockdown while all guests were re-tested.
MSC Cruises in a statement said that it would also be suspending all cruises out of Durban until January 9th, 2022, but did not confirm the number of COVID-19 cases onboard.
Passengers who spoke to local media suggested the number may be as high as 100.
“A number of completely asymptomatic guests tested positive during today’s testing procedure upon arrival and they are currently awaiting disembarkation for their safe return home,” said Ross Volk, Managing Director, MSC Cruises South Africa.
He said while some passengers had disembarked, others will do so on Saturday “in full co-ordination and under the guidance of health authorities”.
He added that all booked guests will receive a voucher for a voyage later in the season at their convenience or a refund for their cruises that have been cancelled during the months of December and January.
“We made this voluntary decision in an abundance of caution towards our guests, our crew and the communities that MSC Orchestra was scheduled to visit in the coming weeks,” he said.
“This is what our health and safety protocol is designed to do, in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic ashore and to ensure the utmost protection to our guests and crew,” said Volk.
It isn’t clear why MSC Cruises has decided to cancel all cruises between now and January 9th, but in his statement Volk said that the cruise line had done so voluntarily ” in consultation with the government’s Department of Health”.
MSC Cruises may want to confirm whether the COVID-19 cases discovered aboard MSC Orchestra are Omicron, and may also be planning to re-evaluate its health and safety protocols prior to resuming operations.
”We understand that our decision will be very disappointing to those guests that will have their voyages cancelled, but I hope that they will understand that it was made with their wellbeing in mind, as the health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority,” said Volk.