Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said it is very bad after 35 crew and one passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on some of the first international cruises operating since the global pandemic stopped almost all cruise traffic around the world.
Nearly 400 passengers now face a mandatory 10-day quarantine, but the company faces criticism for not contacting passengers quickly.
Two crews fell ill
Two crew members were isolated for several days after falling ill while returning from a week-long cruise on Svalbard in MS Roald Amundsen. Upon arrival in Troms in northern Norway, both tested positive for COVID-19.
Following the news, the rest of the crew was tested. A passenger from a similar trip last week had also tested positive. A third cruise scheduled for next week was canceled immediately.
The ship remains in the dock in Troms, where four of the crew were hospitalized. They are the first cases of coronavirus at Troms Hospital since early June.
Mayor Troms fears the local explosion
Troms Mayor Gunnar Wilhelmsen was highly critical of Hurtigruten for allowing hundreds of passengers to leave the ship before the extent of the blast was known.
The cruise line has not yet reached a small number of passengers, which risks further spread of any possible infection. Wilhelmsen told the local newspaper Northern lights that he is now afraid of an explosion in the city.
At a press conference, Norways Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Hie said how important it is that passengers now comply with the mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Hurtigruten rolled the dice choosing to return to the waters faster than many other cruise companies. As Norway now has to manage a potential public health crisis, the cruise line faces a PR catastrophe just weeks after announcing a series of new cruise routes in Europe for 2021.
In mid-June, Norwegian coastal ferry service Hurtigrutens began a slow return to normal operations. On June 26, the line resumed its expedition voyages with a special 15-day voyage from Germany to the Norwegian Fords, followed by a series of Svalbard voyages.
All ships operated below capacity to increase the possibility of appropriate social distancing. Despite the outbreak, one passenger told NRK that infection control had been taken very seriously on board, with frequent recollections to ensure distancing and social hygiene.
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