MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato (pictured) has revealed the full details of the company’s health and safety protocol ahead of the resumption of cruising operations at a press conference held on 3rd August.
He explained that this protocol was developed to support the restart of operations in the Mediterranean (see elsewhere in this news edition), was designed to protect the health and safety of guests and crew, as well as the local communities.
A dedicated task force, with the input and support of leading external medical experts, has developed a robust protocol with new MSC Cruises’ specific operating procedures that go beyond the actual regional and national guidelines and effectively set a new standard, he claimed.
He also said MSC had set up a cross-functional task force comprised of in-house experts in medical services, public health and sanitation, hotel services, HVAC and other shipboard engineering systems, IT and Logistics. The company has also hired Aspen Medical to help with the protocol’s development and operating procedures.
In addition, MSC has established what it calls a blue-ribbon COVID Expert Group.
New Health Protocols:
- Universal health screening of guests prior to embarkation that comprises three comprehensive steps: a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a COVID-19 swab test.
Depending on the screening results and according to the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening or testing will take place. Any guest who tests positive, displays symptoms or a temperature will be denied boarding.
Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests travelling from countries categorised as high risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, to be done within 72 hours prior to joining the ship.
All crew members will be tested for COVID-19 prior to embarkation, as well as regularly during their contract.
2) Increased sanitation and cleaning measures supported by the introduction of new cleaning methods, the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products and the sanitation of the air on board with UV-C light technology that kills 99.97% of microbes.
3) Social distancing will be enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of guests on board, allowing for more space for guests, about 10 sq m per person based on 70% overall capacity.
Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests should pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers.
When social distancing is not possible, guests will be asked to wear a face mask, for instance in lifts. Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their cabins and will be available around the ship.
4) Enhanced medical facilities and services with highly qualified staff trained, the necessary equipment to test, evaluate and treat suspected COVID-19 patients and the availability of free treatment at the on board medical centre for any guest with symptoms. Dedicated isolation cabins will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.
5) Ongoing health monitoring will be conducted throughout the cruise.
Guests and crew will have their temperature checked daily either when they return from ashore or at dedicated stations around the ship to monitor the health status of every guest and crew member.
During this initial phase of operations, as a further enhanced measure of protection and to avoid risks to the health of guests and their fellow cruisers, guests will only go ashore as part of an organised MSC Cruises’ excursion.
Transfers will be properly sanitised and adequate space will be ensured. Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
6) A contingency response plan will be activated if a suspected case is identified, in close co-operation with the national health authorities. The suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations.
The MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan will cover the guest if they become infected prior to their departure, if they are not able to travel, during the cruise for medical expenses and after the cruise if the guest falls sick. It is currently available only to guests from Schengen countries.
A redesigned embarkation procedure with digital check-in processes has been implemented to make the process more seamless and contactless with arrival time slots to manage guest flow.
Guests will undergo a COVID-19 swab test, a temperature check and an in-person check of the health questionnaire to ensure that they are healthy and eligible to cruise. If further checks are needed, these will be carried out by medical staff and, if needed, a further COVID-19 test could be carried out.
For guests on board both the ships due to re-enter service this month, the MSC for Me app will support and facilitate the new health and safety measures. The app can be used to book services as well as to manage their daily activities on board and source information.
In addition, on board ‘MSC Grandiosa’ each guest and crew member will be provided with a complimentary MSC for Me wristband, which will facilitate contactless transactions around the ship, as well as providing contact and proximity tracing.