The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now issued the next phase of technical guidance under its “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” (CSO).
However, while solid on most details, it gives no date for a restart of cruises departing from US ports. It was unclear whether the new guidances were sufficient to enable cruise lines to recommence cruise holidays from July, which the CLIA had been pushing for.
The new technical guidance provides technical instructions on:
- Increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of Covid-19 cases;
- Implementing routine testing of all crew based on each ship’s “Red-Orange-Yellow-Green” colour status;
- Updating the colour-coding system used to classify ships’ status with respect to Covid-19;
- Decreasing the time needed for a “red” ship to become “green” from 28 days to 14, based on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening testing protocols, and daily reporting;
- Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of Covid-19 on their ships. This would include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed;
- Establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.
The next phase of the CSO will include trial voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice the new Covid-19 operational procedures with volunteers rather than paying passengers.
CDC said that it was committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it became safe so to do
The new guidance is the first to incorporate any reference to vaccinations. One criticism from the industry of the October 2020 guidance was that it was out of date.
The CDC said that Covid-19 vaccination efforts would be critical for the safe resumption of passenger operations.
The CDC has recommended that all eligible port personnel and travellers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.