COVID-19 cases on expedition ship | Polarjournal

UPDATE 03/08/20: In addition to the 36 crew members, 5 passengers have also been tested positive for COVID-19. Hurtigruten has now announced that it will suspend all expedition cruises with the ships “Roald Amundsen”, “Fritjof Nansen” and “MS Spitsbergen” until further notice. Journeys on the postal route are not affected. At the same time, the police in Tromsø announced that they had opened an investigation into Hurtigruten for violating the Infection Control Act. According to NRK.no’s website, the company admitted that it had not complied with the requirements of the National Institute of Health. Hurtigruten has confirmed its complete cooperation in the investigations.

UPDATE 7 p.m.: At a press conference it was announced that another 3 crew members have tested positive for COVID-19. This brings the number to 36. Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam also attended the conference via video link. He summed up the overall situation and regretted the whole situation. He also summarized what measures Hurtigruten is taking in advance with the crew. He also indicated the nationalities of the crew members concerned and where he believed the infection had come from.
National Institute of Public Health director Line Vold described the incident as a “major outbreak” and expressed concern about the scale. The 384 passengers on board the past two journeys are spread across 69 municipalities in Norway.

UPDATE: As reported by the Svalbard news platform Icepeople, 33 crew members of Roald Amundsen have now tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, a Norwegian guest of a previous departure has also tested positive. The person was tested in his/her community and the local authorities immediately passed on the information. Hurtigruten, according to Icepeople, has now informed all guests of this departure and recommended that tests be carried out and that they go into isolation. A total of 384 people were on the two departures, all of whom are now being informed. According to Norwegian television, 60 people had already been quarantined in Tromsø before they could travel home.

TheRoald Amundsen, one of two of Hurtigruten’s newest expedition ships, has recently returned to northern Norway and Svalbard and has 160 crew members on board. Despite strict controls and measures, several crew members have now contracted COVID-19. The ship is currently in quarantine in Tromsø. There are no passengers on board. Picture: Hurtigwiki / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 EN

The expedition ship “Roald Amundsen” of the largest expedition cruise company Hurtigruten was one of the first ships of its kind to resume operations. Hurtigruten had presented a comprehensive safety concept to protect guests and crew from the grazing COVID-19 pandemic. Two trips were successful, including one to Svalbard. But now several crew members have contracted the virus and the ship is currently under quarantine in Tromso, with no passengers.

In a press conference yesterday, the mayor of Tromsø announced that two crew members had fallen ill on the journey to Tromsø and had been routinely tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at the port. These tests were positive, and all 160 crew members were tested for the virus. Two other cases were identified. All four sick people were taken to the Tromsø Hospital and quarantined. The ship will also remain under quarantine in Tromsø until further notice, with the crew under observation. No information was passed on about the condition and nationality of the sick persons. No details were given on where or how the crew members may have contracted the virus.

Roald Amundsen is one of the latest expedition ships in the world. There is usually a maximum of 530 passengers on board. However, in the current pandemic situation, only a maximum of half of the cabins are occupied. In addition, Hurtigruten has adopted numerous measures to ensure safe cruising. Picture: Hurtigwiki Noschwefi / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 EN

Hurtigruten had only started operations a few weeks ago after the COVID-related forced break. The company had introduced numerous and strict measures to ensure the safest possible operation. These included COVID tests for the crew and quarantine before departure, safety distances on board, increased cleaning measures, fewer guests on board, etc. The 177 passengers who had been on board were disembarked in Tromsø and began their journey home. As the news portal The Independent Barents Observer and other portals report, some guests only learned about the COVID-19 cases from online newspapers while they were at the airport. Hurtigruten has explained that all guests of the last and penultimate trip will be informed by phone and recommend to go into self-isolation. The ship had just returned from a trip to Svalbard and would have set off again the same day to head for the Norwegian archipelago again. The new trip was logically cancelled. At the moment, in addition to the Roald Amundsen, her sister ship, the Fritjof Nansen, is also on its way, but it does not report any incidents.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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