Jul 29, 2020
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Ten AIDA cruise crew members test positive for COVID-19; ships will still sail in August
Ten crew members on AIDA Cruises' AIDAblu and AIDAmar learned they tested positive for COVID-19 after boarding in Rostok, Germany, on July 22.
The infected crew members have been taken off the two ships since receiving positive results, and the remaining crew members are secluded on board waiting for another round of test results, Roger Frizzell, spokesperson for Carnival Corp., parent to AIDA Cruises, told USA TODAY.
The ships are still expected to depart in August on their first voyages since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19.
"The crew on board these two ships have already tested negative twice, so the additional testing is purely precautionary," Frizzell explained. The ships are "not under quarantine," according to the line, but crew members still on board will not be allowed to go ashore.
The 10 positive cases are not related to onboard activities, the cruise line said in a release provided by Frizzell, who explained that all crew members were tested before flying to the embarkation area and before getting on board but that they waited for the second test results in seclusion on the ship before learning that they tested positive.
"All affected crew members are currently in isolation and have been quarantined. A second PCR test has been carried out immediately to verify the results," AIDA's release said. PCR tests are the most commonly used test to diagnose COVID-19, and they require analysis in a lab.
The COVID-19 cases won't stop AIDAmar and AIDAblu from sailing on Aug. 12 and Aug. 16, respectively.
"We do not expect it to create any delays especially since it showcases the new screening process with our crew members there is working as intended," Frizzell added.
In planning its return to cruising without port stops and within European waters, AIDA expected to have some occurrences of positive cases and had a plan to deal with those instances.
The German cruise line created a process for pre-boarding testing to ensure that crew members don't infect passengers or each other when embarking:
1. All crew members are tested in their home countries before traveling to Germany.
2. Upon arrival, crew members are tested again before boarding.
3. Newly embarked crew members go into single isolation on board while awaiting test results.
And while it may show the process is working, according to Frizzell, going forward, the boarding process for crew members will be altered slightly.
"The change in the future will be that they won’t actually enter the ship until they have a negative result," Frizzell said.
But even before 10 people tested positive, crew members were awaiting test results in seclusion, posing minimal risk to each other, Frizzell said.
And while the third test that is being administered is precautionary, it won't be the last time they are tested ahead of the ships' embarkation dates.
"The entire crew will continue to be tested every few days prior to departure," Frizzell said.
All areas on both ships that the 10 infected individuals occupied are "of course" being sanitized, he added.
How sailing on AIDA again will look
Ahead of AIDAmar and AIDAblu, AIDAperla will sail from Hamburg on Aug. 5.
"We are taking a measured approach with a few initial ships within our AIDA line in Germany," Frizzell said when it was announced that the ships would sail again. "We have been leveraging medical and science advisors, but this will helps us gain additional insight with the initial protocols being put in place."
To ensure passengers' onboard safety, AIDA worked with authorities to create new health standards including regional and national government authorities in Germany, that country's public health institute and the World Health Organization, according to Frizzell.
"We have been consulting and assembling the best minds in medical science, public health and infectious disease control," Frizzell added.
The AIDA health protocols are in accordance with the EU Healthy Gateways guidance.
Some of the measures AIDA is taking include:
• A digital health questionnaire to be completed ahead of the scheduled cruise
• Temperature checks prior to check-in for passengers and crew
• Physical distancing guidelines
• Routing systems for arrival and departure on board to minimize large gatherings
• Managing capacity at onboard venues including restaurants, theaters, sports and wellness facilities and bars
• Increased cleaning and disinfection in public areas and cabins
• Hand sanitizer available at check-in and on board
Medical care will be available to passengers and crew members 24 hours per day, and coronavirus test kits and other "diagnostic devices" will be available on board.
Should a passenger or crew member be diagnosed with COVID-19, AIDA has developed a protocol to facilitate medical care, safe disembarkation and a return home. Frizzell added that AIDA ships will have access to shoreside medical facilities and hospitals if necessary.
To ensure space for physical distancing between people on board, AIDA will operate at a limited passenger capacity.
German quality-assurance firm SGS Institut Fresenius will check on AIDA's implementation of hygiene standards and COVID-19 prevention, according to the cruise line's release.
While AIDA will restart operations next month, the line maintains that it won't sail to ports in the U.S. or Canada for the remainder of 2020.
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