Global cruise operator reintroduces Covid mandates on Australian ships after surge in cases

A major global cruise operator has reintroduced vaccine and mask-wearing mandates on its Australian ships due to a “rapid rise” in Covid cases across the nation.

The announcement comes following a Covid-19 outbreak onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Majestic Princess, which infected 800 people before the passengers disembarked in Sydney last weekend.

Carnival Cruise Line issued a statement on Friday confirming that, out of an “abundance of caution”, masks would be required on vessels in public indoor spaces and some outdoor settings, including events, during embarking and disembarking and on transfers.

“In line with government protocols, until further notice, we will operate vaccinated cruises with our enhanced protocols,” it said.

“All our operations will follow these guidelines so we can maintain the confidence of the destinations we visit and deliver on our itineraries and guest experience.”

In a statement, a Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson said it was “critical” everyone played their part in keeping the community safe while “faced with a rapid rise of Covid cases”.

The spokesperson added that for all vessels in the Carnival Corporation fleet operating in the Australian region, “this means going above current guidelines”.

“We can confirm that mask wearing is being applied on board all Carnival Corporation brand ships operating in Australia and the region as an additional safeguard in light of the current rate of Covid-19 in the general community,” they said.

“We thank our guests for abiding by our requirements.”

Carnival Cruise Line operates 25 ships around the globe including Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, Holland America Line, Seabourn and P&O Cruises World Cruising.

As part of the tightened measures, 100% of crew and 95% of passengers over 12 must be fully vaccinated. The final 5% must have proof of an accepted medical condition preventing them from receiving a vaccine.

All guests two years and over have to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of boarding, or a PCR within 48 hours and provide proof of a negative result, among other temporary measures including health screenings.

The measures come days after Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess cruise ship reported about 800 of its 3,300 guests testing positive to Covid-19 as it docked in Sydney last weekend.

The outbreak occurred during a 12-day cruise to New Zealand, raising the spectre of the arrival in Sydney of the Ruby Princess in March 2020 – early in Australia’s pandemic – which was ultimately linked to 28 deaths and more than 600 infections.

Princess Cruises said virus patients had been isolating and every passenger had been given a rapid antigen test in the 24 hours before arrival.

Guests who tested positive and chose to stay on the ship were required to isolate for at least five days.

Covid-19 cases have more than doubled in a fortnight in NSW, Queensland and Victoria despite lower testing numbers. NSW and Victoria recorded a combined 48,267 new infections on Friday, up from 22,676 two weeks ago.

NSW and Queensland have moved to “amber” risk settings due to the continued spread of a new Covid wave.

Masks have become mandated in NSW in hospitals and healthcare settings while in Queensland, masks are recommended in a range of public settings and among elderly and vulnerable people.

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