US cruise ships may resume operations by July: CDC

Miami, United States: According to new guidance from US health authorities, cruise ships will be able to resume sailing from Florida ports in mid-July after being shut down for more than a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) told cruise lines of the conditions they would need to meet in order to resume sailing.

According to the letter obtained by AFP on Thursday, at least 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of the passengers would need to be completely vaccinated against Covid-19.

"Ships may now bypass simulated voyages and move directly to open water sailing with passengers if a ship attests that 98 percent of its crew and 95 percent of its passengers are fully vaccinated," the CDC said.

Cruise lines were asked to submit their plans "as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July."

The multibillion-dollar cruise industry employs thousands of people in Florida and is vital to the state's economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism.

Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean are the world's three biggest cruise lines, with operations in South Florida.

Norwegian declared on April 5 that it would enable passengers and crew to show evidence of vaccination in the hopes that the CDC would lift the sailing ban in July.

A Norwegian spokesman said the company "is encouraged by the ongoing constructive dialogue (with the CDC) that resulted in recent meaningful modifications to previously issued technical guidelines and the incorporation of vaccines."

A Royal Caribbean spokesman, Jonathan Fishman, said the company was excited "that we now see a roadmap to a stable and realistic return to service."

According to a Carnival representative, the organization is still evaluating the latest CDC guidelines.

The CDC released a "no sail order" on March 14, 2020, halting cruise operations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Several ships had already experienced lethal outbreaks.

Some cruise ships resumed operations in Europe and elsewhere last year, but the prohibition in the United States remained in effect.

In October, the CDC released a roadmap for cruise ships to restart operations, which was revised in April.

Didier Arino, the head of the Paris-based Protourisme consultancy company, told AFP this month that the pandemic has cost the cruise industry $48.3 billion and that he doesn't expect it to return to regular operations until 2025.

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