Does this piece of ship news from Down Under give you a feeling of déjà cruise? The Majestic Princess cruise ship is now docked in Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia, after over 800 passengers aboard ended up testing positive for Covid-19. The ship that was carrying around 4,600 passengers and crew had originally departed from New Zealand for a scheduled 12-day cruise. Doing the math reveals that at least one in five got infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Of course, that number could be higher because Covid-19 tests can give you false negative results.
The following 7NEWS Australia video shows Marguerite Fitzgerald, the president of cruise operator Carnival Australia, reading a statement about the outbreak and answering questions from reporters:
Now when you hear the words “Covid-19 outbreak” and “cruise,” it may take you back to the shipstorms that occurred back in 2020. For example, there was the Diamond Princess cruise ship outbreak in February 2020 that Vicky Forster covered for Forbes back then. And there was the Covid-19 outbreak on the Ruby Princess cruise ship that ended up being docked in Sydney. Such cruise ship outbreak left a number of people very sick, hospitalized, and dead. As a result, that year, cruise ship operators had to ground their operations for much of 2020 into 2021.
Don’t expect a 2020 too in 2022 though. Things have changed quite a lot since many people have gotten vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19. A Covid-19 outbreak is no longer the same oh ship moment that it was during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite what some anti-vaccination personalities and social media accounts may tell you, studies have shown those vaccinated against Covid-19 have been substantially less likely to have suffered severe Covid-19 outcomes like hospitalization and death.
Reportedly, all Covid-19 cases aboard the Majestic Princess have been so far either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, according to Fitzgerald, as reported by George Wright for the BBC News. It’s not clear yet what percentage of the crew and passengers were vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19 though. There was a time when many cruise ships required you to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before boarding. But such requirements have seemingly gone the way of furry boots after people politicized the ship out of them.
However, this doesn’t mean that a Covid-19 outbreak aboard a cruise ship is no longer a big deal. Getting Covid-19 still brings the risk of long Covid even if you have mild or minimal symptoms. Getting long Covid is certainly no joke since it can leave with persistent cardiovascular, neurological, and other life-changing symptoms. Evidence suggests that the risk of long Covid may actually increase each time you get Covid-19. The long and short of it is that any Covid-19 outbreak should still be taken very seriously.
Any cruise ship outbreak should prompt an extensive review of what could have been done to prevent such an outbreak. Were surfaces being adequately disinfected? Did rooms have enough ventilation and air purification? Were Covid-19 positive crew and passengers caught early enough? Cruise ships still need clear and rapidly implementable strategies to contain outbreaks before they can spread to other passengers and crew. After all, it’s not as if they are shipping bricks.
Cruise ships have and will continue to be particularly susceptible to all sorts of infectious disease outbreaks, not just Covid-19 coronavirus outbreaks. That’s because cruise ships can pack hundreds, potentially thousands of people together in relative close quarters for extended periods of time. People can end up sharing air space and lots of objects such as utensils on buffets. As a result, cruise ships can be like floating buffets for all sorts of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other pathogens. Therefore, cruise ships must take extra care to ensure that infection prevention precautions are in place.
So if you are considering a cruise in the next few months, first check to see what specific Covid-19 precautions are in place. Make sure that the operators of the cruise ship don’t just “wave” at Covid-19 and instead truly “sea” the risk of outbreaks. The colder and drier weather in the Northern Hemisphere may bring yet more Covid-19 surges, increasing the likelihood that someone will bring the virus on board during the upcoming Holiday season. So consider wearing face masks when around others and maintaining social distancing as much as possible. Don’t succumb to pier pressure and put yourself at unnecessary risk.