Covid outbreak hits Mediterranean cruise ship MSC Grandiosa

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(CNN) – One of the largest cruise ships operating in the Mediterranean has become the last to be affected by a Covid outbreak amid the current global increase in virus cases.

MSC Cruises confirmed on Monday that 45 Covid-positive passengers disembarked from its ship MSC Grandiosa in the Italian port of Genoa, less than 1% of the people on board.

The ship was carrying 4,813 passengers and crew on a Civitavecchia-Rome round trip, with scheduled stops in Malta and Barcelona in the New Year.

All crew members and passengers of MSC Cruises over the age of 12 must be fully immunized, while all travelers aged 2 and over must test negative before departure.

In a statement provided to CNN, MSC Cruises denied Italian media reports of a much higher number of positive Covid cases on board. The cruise line said identifying and removing sick passengers demonstrated that its health and safety protocol – which also includes wearing face masks in indoor public spaces – was working.

MSC Cruises said positive passengers and their close contacts were “immediately isolated in cabins with balconies”.

“In accordance with protocol, we are arranging return transport to the house, all in agreement with health and other authorities having jurisdiction,” the statement from MSC Cruises said.

Crew members aboard the MSC Grandiosa were reportedly tested every other day, while passengers were tested at the start and in the middle of the trip. Passengers were also to be tested at the end of the trip.

MSC Grandiosa continued her journey after disembarking and is expected to return to Rome on Tuesday.

Cruises affected by Covid

In the summer of 2020, MSC Grandiosa was the first cruise ship to return to the Mediterranean after the global shutdown of the multibillion-dollar cruise industry in the spring of 2020.

Since then, cruises have also picked up in the U.S. market, and cruise lines around the world have continued to enforce onboard health and safety requirements – and have updated regulations as conditions were evolving.

The goal, as a spokesperson for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry body that represents the world’s major cruise lines, said CNN Travel in December, is not to completely prevent the virus from taking on board, but to control its impact.

“Recognizing that Covid will inevitably always occur given the nature of a pandemic, our members have developed protocols designed to prevent, detect and mitigate Covid-19 in a cruise environment,” said the CLIA spokesperson .

Cruise passengers also hoped to avoid the chaos that ensued in the spring of 2020, when ships infected with the virus were turned away from ports.

The move “reflects the increase in cases aboard cruise ships since the identification of the Omicron variant,” the CDC website said.

“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to the CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships responding to the threshold Covid-19 case for the CDC investigation, ”the agency said.

CLIA has expressed disappointment at the CDC’s high level of risk.

“The CDC’s decision to increase the level of travel for cruises is particularly puzzling given that the cases identified on cruise ships consistently represent a very small minority of the total population on board – far less than on land – and the The majority of these cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, placing little or no burden on medical resources on board or ashore, ”the industry body said in a statement last week.

Top photo: MSC Grandiosa in Genoa, Italy, January 3, 2022. Photo by Luca Zennaro / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock.

CNN’s Jason Hanna, Marnie Hunter and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report

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