TUI cruise ship crew negative for COVID-19 after docked at Greek port

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Twelve crew members of a cruise ship that docked at Piraeus port near Athens on Tuesday tested negative for coronavirus in repeat checks by Greek health authorities, the ship's operator TUI Cruises said.

The Mein Shiff 6 cruise ship had departed from Heraklion in Crete on Sunday with all 922 passengers having tested negative before boarding.

But sample tests on 150 members out of the ship's total crew of 666, conducted at a land lab, detected 12 COVID-19 infections. They have all since repeatedly tested negative.

"Twelve unclear positive COVID-19 tests on crew of Mein Schiff 6 have now been identified as negative by two further tests - PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests performed by TUI Cruises and antigen rapid tests of the Greek authorities," TUI Cruises said on Tuesday.

A third PCR test carried out by Greek health authorities affirmed a negative result late Tuesday, TUI said in a later statement. The affected crew had been isolated on the ship.

TUI said that given that no passengers were among the contact group, no tests on them were necessary. It said the vessel would now resume its journey.

Sailing off the island of Milos, the cruise liner had made its way back to Piraeus, the country's biggest port, with better access to health services and equipped to deal with any emergency.

The cruise industry has taken a major hit from the pandemic, with some of the earliest large clusters of COVID-19 occurring aboard cruise ships.

Voyages of large cruise ships only resumed in recent weeks in Greece after they were banned for months.

TUI Cruises is a cruise line based in Germany.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Alison Williams)