Corona breaks out on Hurtigruten ship

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One of the Norwegian cruise and shipping line Hurtigruten’s new hybrid expedition ships was berthed at Tromsø on Friday, after two ill crew members had to be hospitalized. They were confirmed as being infected with the Corona virus Covid-19 and now the rest of the crew must be tested, too, as Hurtigruten also contacts all passengers who had just disembarked from a cruise to Svalbard.

Hurtigruten’s new hybrid ships like Roald Amundsen had been commanding high rates as the company targets the high end of the cruise market. Instead most all expedition- and other cruises were cancelled by Corona and the virus has hit the Roald Amundsen itself. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

“The ship is in isolation at the pier in Tromsø and there are no guests on board,” Hurtigruten stated in a press release. Its new MS Roald Amundsen had returned at 6am after the second of two week-long “expedition cruises” to Svalbard that departed Tromsø on July 17 and July 24.

Hurtigruten stated that the two crew members, neither of whom is Norwegian, had already been in isolation on board the Roald Amundsen for “several days” because of what was described as another illness without Covid-19 symptoms. Both were “routinely” tested right after the vessel arrived in Tromsø at 6am Friday, however, and were found to be infected by Corona.

Next cruise cancelled
Now all the 160 crew members working on board during both cruises since July 17 must be tested. All roughly 250 passengers on board each cruise (a total of around 500 people) would be contacted by Hurtigruten as well. All will be urged to follow the Norwegian health authorities’ guidelines and contact their own local health care services if they develop Corona-like symptoms.

A third cruise on the Roald Amundsen that was scheduled to depart for Svalbard from Tromsø on Friday was immediately cancelled. A Hurtigruten spokesman said the shipping line had “good and ongoing contact” with Norway’s state public health institute FHI.

One passenger who had been on this week’s Svalbard cruise, Line Miriam Haugan, told NRK that she had the impression that infection control was taken “very seriously” on board. Passengers were reminded several times a day to remain at a distance from one another, she said, “and there were markers set up where we should stand if we were in a line.” She said she wasn’t worried, “but of course it will be uncomfortable if you’re infected. We’re crossing our fingers that we aren’t, but I think we were well taken care of.”

The two ill Hurtigruten crew members were admitted to the university hospital in Tromsø, UNN, which hasn’t had a Covid-19 patient since June 5. Strict Corona containment procedures were followed during both admissions, so a hospital spokesman said there was no need to track any possible spread of infection at the hospital itself.

More travel has led to more infection
Local authorities in Tromsø were also on alert as more tourists visit the popular and scenic northern city after travel restrictions were eased. There’s been a rise in Corona infection cases elsewhere in Norway after Norwegians were allowed to start traveling again this summer to some destinations in Europe considered safe.

It’s another setback for Hurtigruten, which along with other cruise lines has been anxious to get its vessels back into operation. The new Roald Amundsen had been virtually sold out for this year’s cruise season that included expensive voyages  from South- to North America. Corona spoiled all those plans and Hurtigruten has been making the best out of the situation by offering alternative cruises along the Norwegian coast and to Svalbard, carrying only around half their vessels’ capacity.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund