On Friday, the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) issued its next phase for technical guidance under the framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), requiring cruise liners to establish agreements at ports where they plan to operate, implement simulated voyages for routine testing of crew and port personnel, and developing vaccination strategies to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 by crew and passengers.
This signifies the second phase of the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), which has been in place since October 2020 and replaced its No Sail Order. This phase provides technical instructions on:
- Increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses.
- Implementing routine testing of all crew based on each ship’s color status.
- Updating the color-coding system used to classify ships’ status with respect to COVID-19.
- Decreasing the time needed for a “red” ship to become “green” from 28 to 14 days based on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening testing protocols, and daily reporting.
- Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships to include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed.
- Establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.
The new phase of the CSO will include trial voyages training crew and port personnel volunteers in the new COVID-19 operational procedures before sailing with passengers. The CDC states that it is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so, following the phased approach outlined in the CSO.
COVID-19 vaccinations will play a critical role in the safe resumption of passenger operations. With a high percentage of people being fully vaccinated, the second phase approach will allow CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so. CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.
CDC is taking no chances, especially now with the newly emerged and concerning COVID-19 variants around the globe. As the pandemic continues to evolve, CDC has promised to constantly review and update its guidance and recommendations to specify basic safety standards and public health interventions based on the best scientific evidence available.