The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a request for information seeking input for future public health guidance and preventative measures on cruise ship travel.
The questionnaire contains various categories related to planning and infrastructure and the resumption of passenger operations. Topics include methods, strategies, and practices to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Respondents were asked to address steps to bolster cruise lines internal public health programmes and how to ensure that internal public health programmes are involved in all levels of decision-making processes regarding passenger and crew operations.
CDC has also asked for input on ideas to reduce COVID-19 transmission on board ships. For example, if a future quarantine or isolation were to be required, CDC asked what mental health services should cruise ship operators provide for both passengers and crew.
The centre’s questionnaire also included investigating the feasibility of conducting COVID-19 diagnostic testing, crew members reporting of potentially mild symptoms of COVID-like illness, and reporting to the CDC. Potential quarantines are explored, as well as arrangements for travel, including possible future crew repatriations.
Finally, CDC asked for comments about the benefits in terms of averted deaths and illnesses and the financial costs of the measures to be implemented.
The responses must be received by 21st September, 2020, CDC said.
On 20th July, the CDC updated its guidance for ships.
This included the following:
- Specific guidance for ships when one or more suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 is identified.
- Clarified disembarkation recommendations after one or more suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 is identified.
- Supplemental guidance on cleaning and disinfection.
Key Concepts –
- Preventive measures, including hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing face masks or cloth face coverings, are essential to maintaining ship operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Cleaning and disinfection protocols may reduce transmission of COVID-19 on ships.
CDC’s document was issued to provide guidance for ships originating from or arriving in the US to help prevent, detect, report, and medically manage suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As ships travel worldwide, shipmanagement and medical staff need to be aware of and respond to local jurisdictional requirements.
Important points to be aware of:
- Cruise ships that are under CDC’s ’No Sail Order’ (NSO) should additionally continue to follow the requirements of the NSO and the Interim Guidance for the Mitigation of COVID-19 Among Crew During the Period of the No Sail Order. This guidance does not constitute permission or recommendations for cruise ships under the NSO to resume boarding passengers.
- This guidance is not intended for ships used to transit passengers (and vehicles) on short-distance routes (eg, ferries).
CDC said it will update its interim guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available.
Shipping companies should develop, implement, and bring into operation an appropriate, actionable, and robust plan to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 on board.
CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19 provides ways to prevent workplace exposures to the virus.
Plans should include the following components:
- Training of all crew on COVID-19 prevention and mitigation.
- On board monitoring of crew and non-crew for signs and symptomsof COVID-19.
- COVID-19 testing(on board or onshore).
- On board isolation, quarantine, and social distancing.
- Adequate medical staffing (this can include telehealth or telemedicine providers).
- Maintaining sufficient quantities of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen, and other supplies and the ability to obtain additional resources, if needed.
- COVID-19 outbreak management and response information.
- Medical arrangements for onshore evaluation and hospitalisation.
- Screening of embarking or disembarking crew and non-crew.
- A system to notify respective national, state, and local public health authorities.