All passenger cruises carrying more than 100 people have been banned for at least two weeks following outbreak of COVID-19 aboard Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen that became public last Friday, Norway’s government announced late Monday.
The ban comes barely after a month after Norway lifted a ban on international visitors and two weeks after cruises were allowed to sail with severe restrictions on passenger loads. But the outbreak on the Roald Amundsen affecting more than 40 passengers and crew as of Monday has sparked fears of a revival of the virus in Norway as nearly 400 people in nearly 70 Norwergian muncipalities plus locations elsewhere are under quarantine or advisories due to their affiliation with the ship.
“Unfortunately, we have to tighten up again,” Bent Høie, Norway’s minister for health and care services, said at a press conference Monday. “The tightening will prevent ships with more than 100 people on board from being approved and landing in Norway. We must take these measures to stop the spread of infection in Norway.”
Cruises already underway can be completed, but without permission to go ashore, Høie said.
The Governor of Svalbard stated Monday evening Hurigruten’s M/S Spitsbergen will not be allowed to dock in Longyearbyen as scheduled Tuesday morning, but that decision was separate from the ban due to the heighten concerns about the virus reaching the remote arhcipelago.
“Svalbard is in a vulnerable situation,” Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said. “Due to the uncertainty surrounding infection management on board the M/S Roald Amundsen and the possibility that something similar could happen on the M/S Spitsbergen we dare not take the chance that crews and passengers will go ashore in Longyearbyen or the other settlements on Svalbard.”
The ship is scheduled to anchor in Adventfjorden on Tuesday to load COVID-19 test equipment infection so checks of passengers and crew can start as quickly as possible. The equipment ordered from the mainland and is scheduled to arrive by plane Monday night, but due to the fog, it is uncertain whether the plane can land.
Hurtigruten admitted violating of its internal procedures when it announced Monday it is suspending all voyages until further notice. Police and health officials are also investigating the company’s actions.
Nationally changes to passenger cruise beyond the ban are being enacted due to the outbreak.
“There will be clear new routines when the ongoing coastal cruises are completed,” Høie said. “If the ship had people on board at takeoff that are covered by the quarantine obligation, or have passengers on board with a suspicion of COVID-19 infection, then all passengers and crew must be tested before they can go ashore.”
Also, everyone scheduled to begin working aboard ships in Norway must be quarantined for 10 days in Norway before they can start working, not in quarantine aboard the ship with passengers as they have been able to until now.