Coronavirus Outbreak On Norway Cruise Ship, 36 Test Positive  08/02/2020 13:45:00 
Hurtigruten expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen moored at a quay in Troms, Norway.

The Hurtigruten expedition vessel MS Roald Amundsen is now moored at Troms, Norway, following the ... [+] outbreak of coronavirus on board.

NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said he is very sorry after 35 crew and one passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on some of the first international cruises to operate since the global pandemic put a stop to virtually all cruise traffic around the world.

Almost 400 passengers now face a mandatory 10-day quarantine, but the company faces criticism for not contacting the passengers quickly enough.

Two crew fell ill

Two crew members had been isolated for several days after falling ill during the return from a week-long cruise to Svalbard on the MS Roald Amundsen. Upon arrival at Troms in northern Norway, both tested positive for COVID-19.

Following the news, the rest of the crew were tested. One passenger from a similar voyage the previous week had also tested positive. A third cruise scheduled for next week was immediately cancelled.

The ship remains in dock in Troms, where four of the crew were admitted to hospital. They are the first coronavirus cases in the Troms hospital since early June.

Troms mayor fears local outbreak

The mayor of Troms Gunnar Wilhelmsen was highly critical of Hurtigruten for letting hundreds of passengers leave the ship before the extent of the outbreak was known.

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The cruise line has still not been able to reach a small number of passengers, which risks further spreading of any potential infection. Wilhelmsen told local newspaper Nordlys that he now fears an outbreak 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. 

Too soon?

Hurtigruten rolled the dice by electing to return to the waters sooner than many other cruise companies. While Norway must now manage a potential public health crisis, the cruise line faces a PR disaster just weeks after announcing a series of new cruise routes in Europe for 2021.

In mid-June, Hurtigrutens Norwegian coastal ferry service began a slow return to normal operations. On June 26, the line restarted its expedition cruises with a special 15-day cruise from Germany to the Norwegian fjords, followed by a series of Svalbard cruises.

All vessels were operating below capacity to increase the opportunity for adequate social distancing. Despite the outbreak, one passenger told NRK that infection control was taken very seriously on board, with frequent reminders to ensure social distancing and hygiene.

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