Arctic expedition cruise ship hit by Covid-19 outbreak

·2-min read
The MS Roald Amundsen is docked at Tromso, Norway - TERJE PEDERSEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The MS Roald Amundsen is docked at Tromso, Norway - TERJE PEDERSEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A Covid-19 outbreak has hit an Arctic cruise ship, forcing hundreds of passengers into quarantine.

Thirty-six crew members of the ship, which is operated by the first firm to resume international cruises in the wake of the pandemic, have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said over the weekend.

Arriving at the northern Norwegian port of Tromso from the archipelago of Svalbard, the crew of the MS Roald Amundsen was quarantined on board the ship on Friday after four staff members tested positive for the virus and were hospitalised.

Of the 158 crew members on board, 36 are infected, Pal Jakobsen, media officer for the city of Tromso said, confirming a development that raises fears of a resurgence of cases in Norway.

Some 400 passengers from two cruises to Svalbard in July now face going into quarantine, while over the weekend the company scrambled to contact 20 passengers they were not immediately able to reach.  

The ship's company Hurtigruten had earlier indicated 33 positive tests. The infected crew were all Filipino apart from three people from France, Norway and Germany.

The company said on Friday that four crew members "were isolated several days ago because of other disease symptoms, with no symptoms of Covid-19.

"There was no reason to suspect Covid-19 when the ship docked in Tromso based on the symptoms they were showing," Hurtigruten said.

The ship had nearly 180 passengers on board since departing on July 25. None of the passengers reported symptoms related to coronavirus during the voyage, Hurtigruten said.

All passengers disembarked the ship on Friday but about 60 people have since been quarantined in Tromso, the cruise line said on Saturday. The crew members are the first coronavirus cases in Tromso hospital has seen since early June.

The cruise industry has been decimated by the pandemic after numerous high-profile outbreaks took place on ships of holidaymakers. The FCO currently advises against all ocean cruises. 

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has not ruled out the possibility of more cases emerging, "but we will only have the answer once the tests have been carried out".

It recommended all passengers remain quarantined while awaiting their results.

As of Friday, Norway had 9,208 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

One person died of the virus on Friday night, bringing the country's death toll to 256. It was the first coronavirus-related death in the Nordic country in two weeks.

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