New cruises to Brazil suspended due to spread of omicron

Cruise ship activity has been temporarily suspended along the Brazilian coast until January 21 due to the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to a statement released Monday evening by the federal government.

The decision came after a recommendation from the national health regulator, which said in a separate statement Monday evening that it took into account “the skyrocketing increase in COVID-19 cases on board ships in recent days, this which indicates a radical change in the epidemiological scenario. “

The agency highlighted an “accentuated explosion” from December 26, with nearly 800 cases detected on cruise ships in just nine days, 25 times the total seen in the previous 55 days and probably due to the spread of the omicron variant, she said.

Government officials met with cruise line officials earlier Monday, the federal government statement said. A statement from the Brazilian office of the Cruise Lines International Association said the suspension was a voluntary measure adopted by companies as a way to align with the federal government, health regulator, states and municipalities.

Its press release says no new departures will take place until Jan. 21, but current cruises will complete their itineraries as scheduled. The cruise lines MSC Cruzeiros and Costa Cruzeiros operate in Brazil.

“In recent weeks, the two cruise lines concerned have experienced a series of situations which have a direct impact on ship operations, making the pursuit of cruise ships impractical at this time,” the statement said. “In addition, operational uncertainty has caused significant inconvenience to customers. “

Yesterday in Rio de Janeiro, health officials inspected an MSC ship and found more than two dozen passengers infected. Passengers on board waited six hours to disembark and the health regulator has ordered those who tested positive to self-quarantine at home or in hotels. The ship was cleared to continue operating and, after further embarkation, proceeded to the northeast of the state of Bahia.

Last week, the regulator halted activities on another cruise ship in Bahia’s capital, Salvador, after discovering community transmission of COVID-19. This ship was headed for Santos, in the state of Sao Paulo.

The cruise line association said onboard health protocols are both rigid and exemplary – including mandatory vaccination for guests and crew and COVID-19 testing before boarding – and lamented the need to suspend travel.

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