Coronavirus: CDC lifts ban on cruises with new sailing protocols

Coronavirus: CDC lifts ban on cruises with new sailing protocols
The CDC has lifted the no sail ban for cruise ships and will implement new health protocols aimed at getting passengers back on ship in the future. (Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced that it is lifting its no-sail order on cruises, which has prevented large ships from operating in U.S. waters since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

Beginning Sunday, the ban will be replaced with a conditional sailing order, The Washington Post reported. The order will include new health protocols, such as mandatory testing and capacity restrictions, the newspaper reported. However, the new protocols will only include crews.

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Cruise companies will have to demonstrate to the CDC that COVID-19 protocols have been working by using specific testing requirements and trial runs, the Miami Herald reported. Only then will passengers be allowed to return.

The first ships to sail in U.S. waters will be simulated voyages, The New York Times reported.

The CDC said the conditional order is limited to the crews "to ensure adequate safety and health protocols through a series of mock voyages with volunteers who will play the role of passengers,” according to Martin Cetron, the agency’s director for the division of global migration and quarantine. The CDC does not have a timeline for the return of passengers, Cetron said.

“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 order said. “After expiration of CDC’s no sail order on Oct. 31, 2020, (the) CDC will take a phased approach to resuming cruise ship passenger operations in U.S. waters.”

The CDC’s order gives cruise operators the chance to generate revenue after reporting billions of dollars in losses after the pandemic crippled the tourism industry, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Major companies such as Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. have discontinued U.S. cruises through the end of November, the newspaper reported.

On Thursday, Royal Caribbean posted a quarterly loss of more than $1.3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Cruise Lines International Association has urged the federal government to lift the cruise ban. In a statement Friday, CLIA president Kelly Craighead said that “while we look forward to reviewing the new order in detail, we expect much of the (industry’s) recommendations, which were adopted by CLIA’s Global of Directors earlier this month, have been considered and will serve as an important foundation.”

"With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the U.S. is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health,” Craighead said.

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