To test the Kovid protocol, Cruise Lines turned to volunteer guinea pigs


Since March last year, cruise ships carrying more than 250 people have been banned from sailing in US waters by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To start again, they need to follow a complex process, which includes, in some cases, simulated cruises designed to test the Kovid-19 protocol. Thousands of frustrated and restless cruise fans are set to become guinea pig.

Jennifer Zuenke is one of them.

“Ever since the CDC shut down the cruise industry, we have been living through a complete nightmare,” said Ms. Zuenke, one of more than 250,000 people who have traveled to a test sailing with Royal Caribbean, a major cruise company. Had signed up for. “It’s been too long, and we are eager to go.”

On Tuesday, Royal Caribbean became the first cruise line to receive approval from the CDC to conduct simulated voyages, which are planned for the independence of a seas ship starting at PortMiami in Florida in late June.

For some volunteers, it is a way to provide assistance to the $ 150 billion industry, which has been destroyed by the epidemic. It is a chance for others to feel how the post-pandemic cruises will feel. But for most people who have raised their hands, this is a way to soothe their longing to return to the boat after being stranded on the coast for more than a year.

“The CDC is taking all of us captive and I really can’t wait any longer, I can’t wait until July,” said 59-year-old retired Alabama resident Justin Marks, referring to a target date. When ships can start sailing.

Mr Marks, who has 12 cruise books by 2022, is unaffected by the outbreak of cruise ships onboard at the onset of the epidemic last year.

“I am dying to be selected for a test cruise, mostly because I need to start running again for my sanctity,” he said, “but also because I want to show the world that any aircraft Compared to how safe a cruise ship is or hotels that have been allowed to operate during the entire pandemic. ”

Exactly how cruise lines will return to operations in the United States is unclear. Earlier this month, the CDC said it would allow cruise lines to skip test trips if they certify that 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of passengers aboard a cruise were fully vaccinated.

Several major cruise companies have already announced to begin Alaska sailing in late July, requiring all passengers to prove that they are Inoculated. But in Florida, Cruise Lines’ largest US departure point, recently enacted state law prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from people wishing to use their services.

Florida officials have said they will not discount cruise lines. If cruise companies decide to travel with a mixture of vaccinated and non-vaccinated passengers, they will have to undertake simulation cruises with volunteers to test health and safety protocols.

Enthusiastic cruisers like Mark Jumo, 53, from Baton Rouge, La., Are eager to help, though, he said, he knows that test cruises won’t be like the real thing. (They canceled 20 cruises during the epidemic and have already booked 25 between this August and December 2022.)

“Many people think it will be a free holiday, but I have a feeling that it won’t,” he said. “This is about testing the Kovid protocol and may mean being confined to your room for the entire cruise.”

“But I’m ready to do it,” he continued. “When you see the devastation caused by the closure of the cruise industry, it reaches so far – from farmers to port employees to hotels and taxi cabs. I will do everything possible to help get things running again. “

According to CDC guidelines, simulated trips should be between two and seven days, with at least one night stay. They are required to test climbing and landing procedures, medical evacuation, onboard activities such as food service and recreation, recreational classes such as fitness classes and swimming, and shore excursions.

A written notice will be issued to all volunteers advising them of the risks of participating in health and safety protocols that are unproven and unproven in the United States.

Most simulation cruise volunteers said they had been fully vaccinated and did not have safety concerns about testing health protocols for upcoming trips. More than 66,000 people joined Royal Caribbean’s Facebook group “Volunteers of the sea” To express interest in the initiative. “I feel safer on a cruise ship than at my grocery store,” Ms. Zuenke said. “Cruises have resumed in Europe and it is going well.”

MSC, a global cruise line based in Geneva, Switzerland, was the first major cruise company to resume international sailing in Europe, which it started last August. It has relied on a rigorous testing and contact tracing program to avoid large Kovid outbreaks. Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan last year Where 700 people got infected with the disease and 14 people died.

“Initially we should appreciate that no one knew anything about the virus and how it behaved and was transmitted,” said Pierfranesco Vago, executive chairman and global president of MSC Cruz. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the trade group of the industry.

“We have come a long way from that moment in terms of scientific knowledge and technology,” he said.

At MSC European Cruises, all guests receive antigen tests while on board and if they test positive, they are given an additional PCR test. Non-vaccinated guests boarding its cruises in the UK will also be required to submit proof of a PCR test done 48 hours before commencement. Passengers are also tested mid-cruise after three or four days and are required to wear contact tracing bracelets so that they can be tracked if someone has come in contact with a positive test.

All passengers who test positive on board are isolated until the ship returns to the port of embarkation or has the option of landing at the next port of call if immediate medical attention is required. The MSC said it had identified some positive cases on its ships since resuming operations last year, which were handled swiftly and effectively, but declined to provide an exact number of cases.

On Monday, four crew members aboard the Royal Caribbean’s latest ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, tested positive for the Kovid-19 en route from Israel to the United States. Royal Caribbean stated that the ship was not carrying passengers and crew members were immediately separated before landing in Spain.

Mr. Wago views the MSC’s protocol – which runs up to 700 pages – as a model for the industry and after participating in a recent technical roundtable discussion between CDC and cruise industry representatives in Washington, saying He is optimistic that American cruises will resume this summer.

“People have been really psychologically affected by this epidemic and we understand how important and important it is for them to be able to get out there and sunset and mingle,” Mr. Vago said.

After receiving brain surgery last year and working in a night shift as a surgery technician at a hospital, Christy Nino of Salinas, California, said she is willing to work voluntarily on a test cruise.

“I think I would be the perfect person to go on one of these test cruises because I’m not scared,” she said. “I have been on the floor of the Kovid, I have seen the Kovid patients, I have gone through the most difficult phase.”

The cruise ship, she said, “has always been a cesspool for viruses, like planes, and I think there were risks at the height of the epidemic, but now with vaccines and health and safety measures I think they’re going to go again Ready. “

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