MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – US cruise lines will not restart operations before the end of the year despite new safety guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced a new framework for resuming sailings. The CDC technically lifted a ban on sailings to and from US ports, but it raised concerns about the safety of resuming sailings while cases of COVID-19 increase around the globe.
“Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that cruise ship travel facilitates and amplifies transmission of COVID-19, even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities, and would likely spread the disease into US communities if passenger operations were to resume in the United States without public health oversight,” said the CDC statement.
The CDC’s guidelines from last week say that in order to resume carrying passengers, cruise line companies have to demonstrate they have procedures for testing, quarantining and isolating passengers and crew. They will have to build test labs on all ships, and make their own arrangements to isolate or quarantine passengers on shore if needed. Before being allowed to sail, they will also have to conduct mock voyages with volunteers playing passengers who get sick, the CDC said.
Cruises worldwide were essentially halted in March following the outbreak of the disease.
It is estimated by the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry trade group which includes cruise giants Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean, that the suspension of cruises snuffed out more than $25 billion in economic activity, and 164,000 American jobs.
Shares in the major cruise line companies started to decline in February as the virus spread, and hit bottom in mid-March when the U.S. economy effectively shut down. Companies have suffered billions in losses this year, wiping out more than 70% of their value.
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US cruise lines had been set to resume sailings as of December 1.
The Cruise Association issued a statement that they will work with the CDC to resume sailings as soon as possible.
“Our members are 100% committed to helping to protect the health of our guests, our crew and the communities we serve, and are prepared to implement multiple layers of protocols informed by the latest scientific and medical knowledge,” said the group’s statement. “We will continue to evolve our approach as circumstances evolve. The economic consequences of the ongoing suspension of service are felt in communities across the United States and with hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake, we are committed to resume sailing in a responsible manner that keeps public health in the forefront.”
The companies include Carnival Corp., which sails under the brands Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard North America, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn; Royal Caribbean Group, which sails under the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea and Azamara brands; and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which sails under the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands. All three corporations are based in Miami.
The new guidelines come as coronavirus cases surge in the U.S. and around the world with colder weather arriving and more people clustering together indoors.
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