Passengers weren’t tested prior to boarding and weren’t notified immediately when the first case was reported
While most of the cruise industry has refrained from setting sail again amid the coronavirus pandemic, some lines have chosen otherwise, and surprising no one, the virus has been confirmed on board. But one Norwegian cruise ship not only confirmed cases on board, it is also concerned it may have infected people in dozens of towns and villages as well.
The line stopped all trips immediately following confirmation that at least five passengers and 36 crew tested positive for COVID-19 on one of its ships, the MS Roald Amundsen, HuffPost reported. In addition to acting as a cruise ship, it also operates as a local ferry, traveling along Norway’s western coast, and seeing hundreds of passengers during the time the cases were confirmed.
“A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement, adding it is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling.” The company’s three ships — the MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen, and MS Spitsbergen — have now been docked and it has not given any indication when its ships will sail again.
The 41 people who tested positive have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle, where the ship is now docked. It has now contacted 387 passengers who set sail on the MS Roald Amundsen during its July 17-24 and July 25-31 trips from Bergen to Svalbard, however, ship officials said they didn’t know that they were supposed to notify passengers immediately after the first case was reported. They stated they followed the advice of the ship’s doctors.
In addition to waiting, those who used the ship as a ferry may have unknowingly spread the virus to the towns they work and live. A total of 69 municipalities in Norway have been affected, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
Skjeldam said in a release on the company website that Hurtigruten is “working closely with the Norwegian national and local health authorities for follow-up, information, further testing and infection tracking.”
Guests onboard come from all over the world, so it is nearly impossible to track the origin of the outbreak. The company said 33 of the 36 crew members that tested positive came from the Philippines, Norway, France, and Germany.
“We have made mistakes,” Skjeldam said. “On behalf of all of us in Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take full responsibility.”