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Cruise ships can sail again, with strict rules. Here is what you need to know.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted their “no sail” order on US cruise ships and established a framework for resuming the cruise.

Under the new structure, cruise lines must demonstrate that they adhere to rigorous health and safety protocols, including extensive testing, quarantine measures and social distancing. If they meet these CDC standards, first on a series of crew-only test cruises, they will eventually be allowed to resume passenger excursions.

The ‘no sail’ order was originally issued on March 14 for all U.S. cruises after it emerged that cruise ships played a major role in the initial coronavirus outbreak. Ships have been remarkably good at spreading the virus: On board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan in February, each case of Covid-19 was transmitted to around 15 other people. In Wuhan, China – the original epicenter of the virus – one person transmitted the disease to about four other people, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine.

In September, the CDC recommended an extension of the policy until February amid reports of outbreaks on ships in other countries, but that advisory was overruled by a White House coronavirus task force. .

Restrictions on crossings have ravaged the cruise industry, with companies reporting billions of dollars in losses as their fleets have been idle in open waters or in ports. Over the past several months, cruise officials have been working to bring together teams of scientists and health experts to design comprehensive safety protocols that will get the cruise back, and they have given a long list of suggestions to CDC.

On Friday, the CDC said the benefits of the new framework outweighed the costs of not allowing cruise ships to navigate, providing flexibility for companies that have taken the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk, while still continuing to prohibit operations from those who do not implement the necessary measures. .

Here’s how the decision will likely affect cruises in the coming months.

In short, not anytime soon.

The first ships to navigate U.S. waters will be simulated voyages designed to test a ship’s ability to implement health and safety protocols and prove the cruise line’s ability to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 on board.

Cruise lines will not be allowed to begin passenger operations until they meet all requirements and obtain a conditional Covid-19 sailing certificate issued by the CDC

Most of the major cruise lines have announced that they will not resume operations until 2021.

The biggest cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC, have canceled their cruises until the end of November. Last month, Carnival canceled all of its 2020 cruises except those between Miami and Port Canaveral, Fla., Which are set to restart in December.

Ships will need to perform rapid laboratory tests of all passengers and crew on the day of embarkation and the day of disembarkation. Onboard testing capabilities will be developed in coordination with the CDC to test all symptomatic travelers, including crew members and future passengers.

Under the new ordinance, cruise ship operators must adhere to standards for hand hygiene, face covering and social distancing for passengers and crew as well as ship hygiene. Meal services and entertainment venues will be changed to ensure physical distancing is in place.

For test campaigns, the CDC said masks are one of the measures that “may be required by CDC instructions or technical orders,” but it does not specify where and when they might be required. Use of masks was included among suggestions from industry executives at CDC

Passengers who test positive for Covid-19 before boarding a cruise ship will not be allowed to board. Those who test positive on board a ship will be isolated and then transferred to a dedicated facility on land. All remaining passengers and non-essential crew will also be required to self-quarantine. In the spring, some passengers spent weeks confined to their cabins after cases broke out on their cruises.

Cruise operators should have the appropriate medical equipment, expertise and training to treat critically ill passengers who contract Covid-19 on board until they can be safely transferred to facilities medical ashore.

Initially, shore excursions will be tightly controlled and limited to private and domestic destinations. Cruise operators are developing protocols to monitor shore excursion vendors to ensure they are following the health and safety protocols enforced on board ships. The measures include physical distancing, sanitation, personal protective equipment, screening and training of personnel.

During a recent cruise on the Costa Diadema, a ship belonging to Carnival Corporation’s Italian cruise operation, cases have arisen despite testing after passengers made shore excursions to the Greek islands. The guests were asymptomatic and tested positive upon their return to Italy.

Under new CDC requirements, cruise ships will not be allowed to sail with an itinerary that lasts longer than seven days. This period may be shortened or lengthened depending on public health considerations.

The health agency’s framework applies to cruise ships that intend to operate in US waters.

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Observers will monitor and evaluate the simulated routes to ensure compliance, he added. “If the result is not as desired, one has to ask: is the plan not good enough or is the implementation not good enough?” Dr Cetron said. “It is a virus that can be very ruthless on mistakes.”

“We all recognize that this virus is a formidable enemy, and we will live with it for a while, and we have to adapt our systems to have maximum impact,” he added.

Ships will have fewer guests than in the past, and crew and passengers would be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing, Dr Cetron said. Initially, new crew members joining a ship would not only be tested before boarding, but also quarantined for 14 days. The crew would also be quarantined for 14 days before disembarking.

Quarantines would not apply to passengers, however. The CDC said passengers would instead be tested twice before boarding, he said. The guidelines will continue to be improved and “tweaked” along the way, he added.

The world’s major cruise lines have been idle for months under bans on sailing as the pandemic swept the world, after tourists and crews aboard ships like the Diamond Princess docked and pulled up. were left stranded for weeks as infection rates soared on board.

Many cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, had already announced that they would resume navigation at least in December. Some have canceled future crossings – Carnival Cruise, for example, canceled all crossings until December 31, as well as some crossings in 2021 and 2022. But cases reaching record levels in the US and European countries committing to new lockdowns with outbreaks of infections spreading, an imminent return of cruise ship travel remains uncertain.

The ban on navigation order has been extended several times since March, but is expected to expire on Saturday.

The CDC’s website says scientific evidence suggests that cruise ships – which bring together travelers from around the world to live closely with crew members, where social distancing is difficult to maintain – “pose a greater risk. higher transmission of Covid 19 than other parameters ”. and that epidemics on board cruise ships “pose a risk of rapid spread of disease beyond travel and into communities around the world”.