Majestic Princess cruise docks in Sydney with 800 covid cases

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A massive cruise ship carrying some 800 people who tested positive for coronavirus docked in downtown Sydney on Saturday, sparking memories of a deadly ship-related outbreak in Australia’s biggest city at the start of the pandemic, before the vaccination.

The Majestic Princess, which returned from New Zealand, is carrying more than 4,000 people, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). Princess Cruises, the cruise line, said in a statement that all guests on board took a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of disembarkation and passengers who tested positive would exit separately and not take public transport. Australia no longer requires people who test positive for the virus to self-isolate.

“Our onboard medical team will continue to support passengers until they disembark,” Princess Cruises said. He did not respond to questions about whether customers who tested positive could self-isolate on board until they recovered, although the company said it would help customers access accommodation for self-isolation. Majestic Princess was soon to sail to Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city.

The health department of New South Wales, the state in which Sydney is located, said in a separate statement that patients had self-isolated on board. State authorities said there was a ‘level 3’ covid risk level on board the Majestic Princess, indicating a ‘high level of transmission’.

Cruise ships have been a powerful incubator for the coronavirus. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitored transmission from these ships at sea for about two years; he also warned against cruise travel amid the omicron peak during last year’s holiday season. The CDC always recommends getting vaccinated and taking a coronavirus test before boarding a cruise ship.

In early 2020, Carnival Cruises’ Ruby Princess brought thousands of passengers ashore in Sydney, putting the cruise ship at the center of one of Australia’s biggest covid outbreaks. At least 28 people died and 700 cases were linked to the ship, according to the ABC. Another Carnival ship, the Diamond Princess, also recorded 12 Covid-related deaths earlier that year, including the first Australian national to die from the virus.

But the country has since lifted coronavirus restrictions on international travel: proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test are no longer required for entry, and wearing a mask on international flights is encouraged but not required, according to the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.

The lack of restrictions is a far cry from how Australia first handled the pandemic. Sydney, the commercial capital, declared a 106-day lockdown in 2021, while Melbourne suffered the longest stay-at-home lockdown in the world. Australia also closed its borders to nearly all international travelers for nearly two years, reopening in February. He expelled tennis ace Novak Djokovic for not being vaccinated, preventing him from playing at this year’s Australian Open. The country has one of the lowest covid death rates in the western world.

A side effect of covid cruise rules: norovirus has dropped

Australia’s reopening came after it achieved one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. As of November 9, nearly 96% of residents over the age of 16 have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. The country of 25.7 million people reported a seven-day rolling average of 12 deaths on Friday, about half that of a month ago.

But authorities in New South Wales said this week the state had entered a new wave of the pandemic, and some medical experts fear the upcoming holiday season could trigger a spike in infections that could challenge the system. hospital in a country that has removed virtually all curbs on the virus.

“If major public hospitals on the east coast aren’t overwhelmed with patients and facing staff shortages over the holidays, I’ll donate $1,000 to charity,” tweeted doctor Steve Robson, president of the Australian Medical Association, in response to news of infections aboard the Majestic Princess. (Most of Australia’s population lives on its east coast.)

Katerina Ang contributed to this report.

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