A statement from TUI Cruises said initial positive tests for 12 crew were a ’false alarm’ and the cruise is continuing as planned
TUI Cruises said its own test and two tests from the Greek government had triple confirmed that initial positive test results for 12 crew were wrong and that the crew were not carrying the Covid-19 virus.
With a total of 36 crew in isolation following the first test, the line said the outcome "proves that cruises are possible in times of Corona".
"After a false positive when a laboratory on land reported 12 positive test results to crew members, three further tests, including two PCR tests and one antigen test" confirmed crew were negative, the TUI statement said.
"The safety of the guests, the crew, but also the Greek population is a top priority for TUI Cruises. I would like to thank all the responsible authorities for the good and professional cooperation in connection with the unclear test results on board the Mein Schiff 6 and I am pleased that the journey for all guests can continue tomorrow with shore excursions in Piraeus," TUI Cruises chairwoman Wybcke Meier said.
The remainder of the TUI statement can be seen below, as well as the initial report from the incident.
After a successful start with cruises from German ports with satisfied guests and without incident, the German shipping company TUI Cruises has been the first cruise line to offer cruises in Greece since September 13th. This was preceded by close coordination of the hygiene and safety concept with the Greek authorities involved. The handling of the unclear test results reported yesterday by crew members once again confirms the processes that were coordinated with the authorities for the resumption of the cruise business and proves that cruises are possible in times of Corona.
For the gradual resumption of cruise operations in times of Corona, TUI Cruises has developed a health and hygiene concept together with medical experts and all processes before and during the trip (including mandatory health questionnaires, daily temperature checks for guests and crew), at check-in (including mandatory digital check-in, staggered check-in times) and adapted in the guest and crew area to comply with hygiene and distance regulations.
In order to be able to adhere to the usual distance rules on land, the passenger capacity on board is limited to a maximum of 60% at the start, only balcony cabins and suites are occupied. Existing and very high hygiene standards were supplemented by additional cleaning and disinfection measures. TUI Cruises is also prepared for emergencies; structures and already very strict measures to prevent the spread of viral diseases have been tightened again and adapted to the current situation. Every ship has always had its own on-board hospital with trained staff.
All precautionary measures are based on the medical standards of renowned institutions such as the German Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and correspond to the guidelines of the Greek authorities for the resumption of cruise operations. Every ship has always had its own onboard hospital with trained staff.
With 36 crew in isolation, TUI has said the 12 crew who tested positive on board Mein Schiff 6 have since tested negative twice.
The 295m Mein Schiff 6, is currently moored off the Greek island of Milos in the Aegean sea with 922 passengers onboard and 12 crew members who have tested both positive and negative for coronavirus. It is the first cruise vessel to dock in Greece following the resumption of cruise sailing in the region.
Initial tests on 150 crew members out of a total of 666, detected 12 infections, but all 12 of those crew have subsequently tested negative in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests – also known as molecular tests – carried out by TUI, as well as rapid antigen tests administered by Greek authorities.
"The unclear 12 positive Covid-19 tests reported yesterday as part of routine tests on the crew of Mein Schiff 6 have now been identified as negative by two further tests. Another PCR test carried out by the Greek authorities should confirm this again," a statement from TUI Cruises said.
TUI said those who tested positive were immediately isolated on board along with 24 other crew members in what TUI referred to as contact group 1. Scientists advise isolating those who have had direct contact with a suspected coronavirus case.
“As a pure precautionary measure and in accordance with the strict procedures for the resumption of cruise operations, which have been coordinated with the authorities in Greece, the 12 crew members in question as well as 24 crew members of contact group 1 were immediately isolated on board on Monday. Until the final results are available, they will remain isolated and will be cared for in their cabins.”
Passengers who had undergone tests before boarding had received a clean bill of health and no passengers were part of contact group 1, TUI said.
"Thanks to the extensive hygiene measures and distance rules on board, there is no need for guests or crew to worry. Since no guests are affected or belong to contact group 1, no tests on guests are necessary."
TUI said the cruise is set to continue as planned subject to approval of the Greek authorities.
Mein Schiff 6 departed the Cretan port city of Heraklion on 27 September en route to Corfu via Piraeus. After the test results became known, the captain interrupted the voyage and moored off of Milos to wait for further instructions.
Cruise shipping is among the maritime sectors most affected by Covid-19 and Greece was the first Mediterranean country in which TUI had resumed cruises.
There were a handful of high-profile outbreaks on board cruise vessels in the early months of the pandemic, and following the restart of cruises in some regions, coronavirus has been reported on board Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen in Norway, and the French Polynesia-based vessel Paul Gaugin.
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