Some cruise lines are trying their luck, sending ships back out on the water, despite the fact that the global coronavirus pandemic — in which cruise ships have already proved a uniquely chaotic player — has not been contained. And surprise surprise, a Norwegian cruise company that recently resumed service is now reporting an outbreak on one of its ships. According to CNN, 36 crew members and four passengers on the Svalbard-bound MS Roald Amundsen, owned by Hurtigruten, have now tested positive for COVID-19.
The company said in a statement that four of its crew members returned positive test results on Friday, prompting full testing of 150-plus other employees aboard the ship. The statement notes that the first four “were isolated several days ago because of other disease symptoms.” There’s a wide variability in possible coronavirus symptoms, though — they encompass everything from fever and shortness of breath to loss of smell and strange toe sensations — and Hurtigruten did not specify what specifically flagged its crew members for isolation. They have been hospitalized, though, while the ship itself docked in Tromsø.
Meanwhile, four passengers, two from a July 17 voyage and two from a July 24 voyage, have also tested positive. Before any diagnoses were made, Reuters reports, 178 passengers disembarked on Friday, which could complicate contact-tracing efforts.
“We expect that more infections will be found in connection to this outbreak,” Line Vold, a senior executive in the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), said. “Messages have been sent to all the passengers,” alerting them to the situation and advising them to self-isolate, an FHI spokesperson told Reuters. “We’re now seeking to verify that the information has been received and understood.”
Hurtigruten became the first cruise company to send its ships back out in mid-June, Reuters reports. The company did put in place sanitation and social-distancing requirements in addition to trimming passenger capacity, but considering the hellscape that cruise ships created in the early days of the pandemic, any new activity still feels too soon. Beginning in February, reports of harrowing outbreaks on stranded vessels began rolling in, eventually prompting an inquiry by the U.S. Congress. In early May, Carnival — one of the main culprits in the cruise-ship catastrophe — announced, alarmingly, that it would relaunch services starting August 1, although the CDC’s renewed no-sail order appears to have pushed that deadline back to September 30. According to Hurtigruten, the MS Roald Amundsen should be out on the water by then, too. Prepare to batten down the hatches.