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Published on Monday, August 3, 2020

Hurtigruten suspends all expedition cruises after Covid-19 outbreak

Hurtigruten has suspended all its expedition cruises after 36 crew members and at least four guests tested positive for Covid-19 on board Roald Amundsen.

The company issued a statement on Monday morning to say: "As a response to the coronavirus outbreak on board MS Roald Amundsen, Hurtigruten temporarily suspends all expedition sailings on MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen until further notice."

CEO Daniel Skjeldam said: "In light of the recent increase in new cases of Covid-19 globally, the only responsible choice is to suspend all expedition sailings until we are absolutely confident we can carry out our operations in line with all requirements from the authorities and with the even stricter requirements we have set for ourselves.

"The safety and well-being of our guests and crew is Hurtigruten's number-one priority. We are now focusing all available efforts in taking care of our guests and colleagues. We are working closely with the Norwegian National and Local Health Authorities for follow-up, information, further testing, and infection tracking."

However, according to Shipping Watch, Norway's health authorities are now investigating whether Hurtigruten has violated coronavirus regulations. Thirty two of the infected employees are reportedly Filipino crew members who should have been quarantined.

And the mayor of Tromso in Norway has criticised Hurtigruten for allowing passengers to disembark before the ship announced it was dealing with the outbreak of coronavirus.

Mayor Gunnar Wilhelmsen now fears there will be a local outbreak. Passengers who disembarked in Tromso told Norwegian media they were first informed of the outbreak when they read it online.

Roald Amundsen sailed from Tromso, Norway, on 24 July with 177 passengers and 160 crew onboard.

During the sailing, a number of crew members began to feel unwell, although they did not show signs of Covid-19. The affected crew were isolated, but, on Saturday, 1 August, others were tested and found to have the virus. All 158 crew members have now been tested, after four were confirmed positive on Friday. The remaining 122 of crew have tested negative.

Hurtigruten initially cancelled Roald Amundsen's next sailing to Svalbard on Friday afternoon, before announcing its entire expedition itineray has been suspended.

Its coastal voyages are still going ahead.

On  Sunday, Hurtigruten's Vice President Global Communications Rune Thomas Ege said: "We work closely with the Norwegian national and local health authorities for follow-up, information, further testing, and infection tracking.

"Hurtigruten is in contact with all guests that were on board Roald Amundsen's July 17 and 24 departures.

"209 guests from the first voyage and 178 guests from the July 24 departure will self-quarantine in line with Norwegian health authority regulations. Hurtigruten also assists guests with transport, accommodation, food and other needs."

He added: "The safety and well-being of our guests and crew is Hurtigruten's number one priority. All crew members are closely monitored and screened daily.

"Non-Norwegian crew members are quarantined before boarding the ship, and non-European crew need to undergo two negative Covid-19 tests before even leaving their home country."

In July, Hurtigruten confirmed it was planning to host short-break itineraries around the British Isles from September on Roald Amundsen, following the FCO's updated advice against cruise travel.

It is unclear if the decision to suspend its expedition cruises will affect Hurtigruten's round-UK cruise plans.

See also: Cruise lines warned against 'rushing to chase revenue'

And: Crystal Cruises cancels remainder of 2020 programme

By Lisa James, Deputy Editor (UK)


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