Miami, Jan 6 (EFE).- All cruise ships operating in the United States and hosting passengers are under investigation by health authorities after reporting Covid-19 infections in the past week amid the skyrocketing number of coronavirus cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
According to the updated pandemic report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 94 cruise ships are being monitored as of Thursday.
Last Thursday, the CDC increased its travel warning for cruise ships to the highest level and urged people – even those vaccinated against Covid – to avoid boarding the vessels.
The CDC asked travelers who are at higher risk of experiencing serious illness if they become infected with Covid-19 to avoid taking cruises, including river cruises, anywhere in the world, regardless of their vaccination status.
The 94 vessels were placed on “yellow” alert by the CDC because in the past seven days at least 0.1 percent of the passengers were found to have Covid or showed symptoms of the virus, a threshold that would be crossed if a vessel has 6,500 passengers on board and seven of them would be suspected Covid cases.
This percentage, while admittedly small, includes cases of passengers detected within the five days following their disembarcation from the ships, after which state and local health departments notified the CDC.
Meanwhile, the Cruise Lines International Association, representing 90 percent of the ocean cruise firms, called the CDC decision to increase the alert level “perplexing.”
The organization said that the Covid cases identified on cruise ships are a “very small” minority of the total on-board population, a much smaller percentage than is occurring among the population on land, and the majority of the cases are “asymptomatic” or “slight,” meaning that they represent little or no work for medical authorities on board the vessels or on land.
The CLIA also said that no environment can be immune from the virus, adding that cruise ships provide one of the “highest” levels of mitigation against the virus.
According to the CDC, the virus spreads easily among people who are in confined spaces on board the vessels and the possibility of contracting Covid-19 on board cruise ships is thus very high, even if a person is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot.
Cruise companies like Norwegian have found themselves forced to cancel some of their scheduled cruises due to the spike in Omicron infections.
The Miami-based firm announced on Wednesday the cancellation or modification of almost a dozen itineraries scheduled up through April 2022.
During the past two weeks of December, there have been more than 5,000 Covid cases on board cruise ships in US waters, the CDC said.
However, the fact that the CDC is monitoring and/or investigating any particular ship does not necessarily mean that there is a large Covid outbreak on board.