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While most of the global cruise industry remains on pause as coronavirus continues to sweep the world, some cruise lines have begun to resume operations on some ships in international waters.
And while ships are sailing with new precautions, problems because of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, are already on the rise.
One person has tested positive for COVID-19 on Paul Gauguin Cruises' Paul Gauguin ship, causing the ship to confine passengers to their cabins, and at least 40 people became infected with COVID-19 on Hurtigruten's MS Roald Amundsen, which is currently docked in Tromso, Norway. And last week, AIDA Cruises announced that 10 crew members received positive test results while isolated on board two ships before they were scheduled to set sail.
The leading industry organization, Cruise Lines International Association, will eventually release a mandatory policy on how to handle COVID-19 prevention and outbreaks on board ships. But right now, its cruise line members are deploying company-specific protocols based on advice of governments, health authorities and experts.
"Resumption is extremely limited so far, and sailings that are taking place must follow the requirements and approval conditions of national authorities," Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director of strategic communications, told USA TODAY.
Paul Gauguin passengers confined to rooms after American woman tests positive for COVID-19
A 22-year-old American woman tested positive for coronavirus on Paul Gauguin's Paul Gauguin on Sunday, prompting the line to cancel its sailing. The ship returned to the departure port in Papeete, Tahiti, on Sunday morning.
The infected passenger, who was asymptomatic, disembarked immediately, according to a statement from the cruise line shared with USA TODAY by spokesperson Lauren Wintemberg.
All foreign passengers were required to take two tests before boarding The Gauguin, according to the cruise line. The first was done within three days of an international flight and a second was administered four days after arrival in French Polynesia.
The passenger's initial, pre-departure test came back negative. The second test, carried out on board Saturday, was positive.
"The passenger and her mother, who were traveling together, were disembarked under sanitary corridor and received in a hotel provided for that purpose," the cruise line said, adding that the passenger with the initial positive was retested in accordance with French Polynesian health protocol, along with any passengers or crew members who had been in contact with her.
"The positive test result is confirmed for the contaminated person," the company noted. "All other results are negative, which confirms the quality of the health protocols in force on board."
By Monday, the cruise line had canceled the sailing and was working to disembark its passengers who reside both in Polynesia and abroad. Crew members will have the option to quarantine on board for one week. All passengers and crew who have been on the ship will be required to be retested within one week, according to crew members, the statement noted.
All those aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship are being tested and will be kept in their cabins pending the results. The results were expected Monday and the French Polynesian government said it would publish them in an official report, according to a translated release published on its website.
The South Pacific archipelago started reopening to tourists last month with the double COVID-19 testing caveat.
At least 40 passengers, crew test positive for COVID-19 in Hurtigruten outbreak
“A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement. He added the company that sails along Norway’s picturesque coast is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling.”
Skjeldam said in a release on the company website that Hurtigruten is "working closely with the Norwegian national and local health authorities for follow-up, information, further testing and infection tracking."
The municipality of Tromso is urging people who have traveled on the ship or anyone in contact with the ship to get in touch with health authorities.
While Ege said in Saturday's statement that crew members have been "closely monitored and screened daily," with non-Norwegian crew members quarantining before boarding and non-European crew undergoing two negative COVID-19 tests prior to leaving their home country, he did not comment on passenger testing.
Over the weekend, Skjeldam said cruise ship officials did not know that they should have notified the passengers after the first case was reported Friday, adding that they followed the advice of the ship’s doctors.
But Line Vold of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said its advice was to inform passengers and crew as soon as possible so they could monitor their health and go into quarantine if needed.
Passengers from two separate voyages, including those who have now tested positive, disembarked on July 24 and July 31.
There were 209 guests on the first voyage and 178 guests on the second voyage, though the ship holds between 530 and 600 passengers, according to CruiseMapper. All have been asked to self-quarantine, according to the cruise line, though there was a delay between them leaving the ship to go into shoreside communities and being alerted about the virus by the cruise line.
“We have made mistakes. On behalf of all of us in Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take full responsibility,” Skjeldam said.
Most of the crew remained on board for both voyages, Rune Thomas Ege, Hurtigruten's vice president of global communications, told USA TODAY Saturday.
The entire MS Roald Amundsen crew was tested after four crew members became sick and tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. An additional 32 crew members tested positive while 122 crew members tested negative, the cruise line said Saturday.
The four crew members who were initially infected were isolated "several days" beforehand, according to the cruise line, because they exhibited "other disease symptoms, showing no symptoms of COVID-19." Each of them was tested before admission to a local hospital on Friday morning.
The outbreak comes just over a month after Hurtigruten sailed the high seas for the first international passenger cruise since the pandemic shut down the cruising industry on a global scale.
The cruise company announced Monday it would suspend all expedition cruises though its coastal Norway operations have not been impacted.
"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," Skjeldam said.
10 AIDA crew members tested positive
Last week, 10 crew members on AIDA Cruises' AIDAblu and AIDAmar learned they tested positive for COVID-19 after boarding in Rostok, Germany, on July 22.
The infected crew members were taken off the two ships after receiving positive results, and the remaining crew members were secluded on board waiting for another round of test results, Roger Frizzell, spokesperson for Carnival Corp., parent to AIDA Cruises, told USA TODAY.
"The crew on board these two ships have already tested negative twice, so the additional testing is purely precautionary," Frizzell explained. The 10 positive cases were not related to onboard activities — the crew was tested prior to boarding and received the positive results while isolated on board.
On Monday, AIDA Cruises canceled two of its three August sailings due to a flagging issue. Because they haven't received Italy's approval to begin sailing, the line's scheduled itineraries on AIDAperla and AIDAmar departing on Aug. 5 and Aug. 12, respectively, were canceled.
AIDAblu's Aug. 16 sailing from Kiel, Germany, has not been canceled.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruise ships and COVID-19: Hurtigruten, Paul Gauguin, AIDA affected