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Cruise lovers in the UK could be in for some good news following a breakthrough in COVID-19 safety developments amongst cruise industry bodies. Despite the current travel ban, and cruises having been on pause since March, hope could be on the horizon as soon as January.
Discussions have reportedly been taking place between government ministers and cruise industry bodies about four new frameworks to help tackle and combat the spread of coronavirus.
Should cruises be given the green light by ministers, a Whitehall source said the industry could “reopen safely” and “early in the new year”.
Given the current uncertainty of travel, it is likely cruises would only span the British Isles initially.
The safety frameworks were presented by UK Chamber of Shipping, in partnership with Cruise Lines International Association UK and Ireland.
They detail how ships would operate with added health and hygiene precautions, as well as how they might tackle an outbreak of the virus onboard.
However, the Whitehall source has pointed out that cruise lines will have to take “responsibility” if an outbreak was to occur onboard.
“We are working on a framework to allow the industry to reopen safely early in the new year,” the source told the Daily Mail.
“We need to be sure that ships have the right infection control measures in place, the proper testing regime, and the right facilities to allow them to contain an outbreak.”
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) adds: “The Government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.”
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Some of the plans outlined by cruise insiders include regulations surrounding disembarking at ports, how to safely disembark passengers with coronavirus and new rules regarding face masks, social distancing and passenger testing.
The plans are similar to those set out by the “Health Sail Panel” set up by Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean in the US.
The plans were given the go-ahead by the CDC which has since implemented a phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption for passenger cruises,” according to the organisation.
If all goes to plans, cruises will begin to resume operations from January in US waters under new guidelines.
Previously, ships in the US had been subject to a no-sail ban which was extended twice.
The decisions came after cruises began to resume across parts of Europe.
Several outbreaks were recorded on cruise ships in their attempts to get back up and running.
Cruise line Hurtigruten was forced to temporarily cancelling all expedition cruises on board MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen after an outbreak on one of its ships.
Around 36 crew members and several guests tested positive for the virus after the ship resumed sailing in August.
Similarly, in September an outbreak amongst six crew members in Greece was identified on a TUI cruise.
Though the situations were handled carefully, with all passengers and crew notified and directed to self-isolate, these outbreaks are just a few of the examples which led the CDC to further extend the US no-sail ban.
They said: “Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that cruise ship travel continues to transmit and amplify the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,—even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities—and would likely spread the infection into US communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States.”
Similarly, in the UK, the FCDO continues to advise against cruise ship travel.
“The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time. This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England,” states the FCDO.
“Cruise ship travel means staying overnight for at least 1 night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households.
“Our advice against cruises applies to international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities such as entertainment venues or swimming pools.”
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