WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday issued a framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations after a no-sail order issued in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic expires on Saturday.
The CDC said it was requiring testing and additional safeguards for crew members. A U.S. House of Representatives committee is investigating if the White House last month blocked the CDC from extending the no-sail order through mid-February.
The no-sail order issued in March came amid a rising number of coronavirus cases on cruise ships. On Friday, shares of major cruise lines Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises closed up around 5% following the CDC order.
“Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements and a phased return to cruise ship passenger operations,” the CDC said.
The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said companies are “committed to resume sailing in a responsible manner that keeps public health in the forefront.”
The cruise industry has committed to “100% testing for passengers and crew prior to boarding, mask-wearing, physical distancing requirements, highly controlled shore excursions” and other precautions, the association said.
The CDC said in a Sept. 30 order that “cruise ships continue to be an unsafe environment with close quarters where the disease spreads easily and is not readily detected.”
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, who chairs a House subcommittee on maritime transportation, in a letter to the CDC warned of the dangers of cruise ships amid the pandemic.
“The insidious nature of COVID-19 and the physical infrastructure constraints on cruise ships makes containing potential outbreaks on board these ships an incredibly difficult task even with the best practices and procedures in place,” Maloney wrote.
The CDC said earlier that from March 1 through Sept. 28, data showed “a total of 3,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illness cases on cruise ships and 41 deaths.”
In contrast, Canada has extended a temporary ban of cruise ships with more than 100 overnight guests in Canadian waters until Feb. 28.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown
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