Senior U.S. health officials deliver another blow to the cruise industry with a level four warning, the highest level, for people thinking about hitting the seas. The industry says it's perplexed by this, but these on-board outbreaks have hit 90 ships so far.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people should avoid traveling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status, as daily COVID-19 cases in the country climb to record highs due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
The move delivers another blow to an industry that just started returning to the seas in June after a months-long suspension of voyages caused by the pandemic.
The CDC raised its COVID-19 travel health notice level for cruise ships to four – its highest warning level – from three, citing reports of COVID-19 outbreaks on cruises.
The health agency has investigated or started an investigation into COVID-19 cases on more than 90 ships.
“Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the CDC said on Thursday.
“The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard,” the Cruise Lines International Association said.
The CDC said passengers already on cruise ships should get tested three to five days after their trip ends, and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days.
The health agency had eased its warnings for cruises by a notch from the highest level in June after cases had eased.
The spread of Omicron also continued to impact air travel on Thursday. Total flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States stood at almost 1,140, with nearly 9,000 flights delayed as of 13:13 ET, data from flight-tracking website FlightAware.com showed.
(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Aditya Soni)