What happens if someone gets COVID on a cruise?

Last week we reported that health minister Greg Hunt wanted to see cruising from Australia back before Christmas, but what will that look like, especially if a passenger falls ill with COVID?

Fortunately, Australia has the experience of much of the rest of the world to look to for guidance when cruising restarts, with many other jurisdictions around the world already restarting their cruise programs.

These cruise lines and destinations do provide us with some semblance of an idea of what will happen on Australian cruising in future.

Read: Cruise industry outlines four-phase revival plan

Recently Royal Caribbean Group chief executive Richard Fain explained to the Global Cruise Report that since the restart of cruising they had effectively been able to isolate passengers with COVID-19.

“We have been carrying hundreds of thousands of people and we have had very few cases. And those very few cases have been identified, isolated and their contacts have been traced and it hasn’t bothered the other guests,” Mr Fain said.

He explained that in some cases passengers have been flown home after testing positive.

“We have so few cases that we can afford to handle them with extra care,” he said.

Read: When is Australia’s cruise ban likely to be lifted?

Michael Bayley, chief executive of Royal Caribbean International, took to Facebook to explain the protection protocols for staff and passengers on board the company’s ships.

“All of our crew are fully vaccinated and each ship sails with a total onboard vaccinated community ranging from 90 to 97 per cent,” Mr Bayley explained. “The overall majority of the unvaccinated guests are the kids not eligible for vaccine.”

He explained that all guests are required to be tested before boarding, regardless of their vaccination status, with around 10 guests a week not being able to board because they test positive.

Read: Plans for a return to sailing soon

That, however, has not stopped people testing positive once they are onboard the ship, with Mr Bayley explaining they were still encountering one or two COVID positive cases on board per ship.

Once a person onboard tests positive for COVID, they are quarantined and the passenger’s immediate travelling party is tested and contact traced with testing of all contacts and quarantining to take place if positive. The cruise line also organises repatriation home via private jet in the majority of cases.

Another clue to how Australia will handle positive COVID cases on its cruise ships could come from the colour-coded system being used in the United States, which was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The system is designed to make it easy for passengers to check the safety of their ship.

Green means a ship has no COVID cases on board, Orange means that cases are low enough not to require an investigation, yellow means there are enough cases on board that the CDC needs to investigate and red means the ship has too many cases and requires additional health protocols.

Are you excited about the potential return of cruising in Australia? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben

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