The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will allow the conditional resumption of cruise ship sailings with passengers, the health services body revealed Friday. It announced in the sailing framework posted to its website that it requires a phased reopening of the sector with COVID-19 mitigation protocols and safeguards for crew, as well as adequate laboratory capacity for testing passengers.
The CDC’s final no-sail order expired on Saturday, prompting the body to roll out its strategy to allow cruise travel once again.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said during a national press conference on Saturday that the CDC has now provided a pathway to the resumption of sailing, though with lots of rules and regulations.
Now the country has to control community spread of COVID-19 in order to fulfill its COVID-19 mitigation obligation, he said.
“They have now provided a pathway for cruise lines to restart cruises, we’re very excited about that. It’s a small step but a big step,” said D’Aguilar.
“A condition of that is that we get our community spread numbers in check. If our numbers continue to persistently be high – and we’ve noticed that they’re trending down – but to persistently be high, this will make it difficult to resume that very important and very crucial part of our tourism revenue stream.”
The absence of cruise lines has left Downtown Nassau a veritable ghost town since March. Most cruise lines have not sailed their ships with passengers since March, when the pandemic was recognized as a global crisis. Some have set their sights on December sailings.
“Considering the continued spread of COVID-19 worldwide and increased risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships, a careful approach is needed to safely resume cruise ship passenger operations,” the CDC framework states.
“CDC is establishing requirements to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to passengers and crew, prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from cruise ships into U.S. communities and protect public health and safety. After expiration of the CDC’s no sail order (NSO) on October 31, 2020, CDC will take a phased approach to resuming cruise ship passenger operations in US waters.
“Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members and U.S. communities.
“These phases are subject to change based on public health considerations and cruise ship operators’ demonstrated ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk. CDC will issue additional orders as needed that will be published in the Federal Register and technical instructions that will be subsequently posted on CDC’s website.”
The CDC will require cruise lines to test crew on a weekly basis and all passengers, when they return to service, contending that “unrestricted cruise ship travel would likely exacerbate and amplify” COVID-19 transmission once again.
Cruise lines will be required to obtain a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate from the CDC before it can allow passengers for sailing.
“Current scientific evidence suggests that, absent mitigation measures of the type needed to prevent further transmission, cruise ships would continue to pose a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than other settings,” the CDC stated.
The CDC will allow cruise lines to use volunteer passengers to test their new protocols before resuming cruising in earnest and will not allow cruises longer than seven days.