Hurtigruten has temporarily suspended all of its expedition sailings after 36 crew members and several passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on board the MS Roald Amundsen, which remains docked in Tromsø, Norway.
“In light of the recent increase in new cases of COVID-19 globally, the only responsible choice is to suspend all expedition sailings until we are absolutely confident, we can carry out our operations in line with all requirements from the Authorities and with the even stricter requirements we have set for ourselves," CEO of Hurtigruten, Daniel Skjeldam, said in a media release on Monday (Aug. 3rd).
Hurtigruten was, notably, one of the first cruise companies to resume operations amid the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement posted to the company’s website on Friday (July 31), there were 177 guests on board the Svalbard cruise that ended in Tromsø on Friday morning.
On Monday, reports indicated that the virus infected at least five passengers and 36 crew, prompting the Norwegian cruise ship line to apologize for procedural errors.
"A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures," Skjeldam said in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press.
The company that sails along Norway's coast between Bergen and Kirkenes is "now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling."
The 41 people who tested positive for COVID-19 on board the ship have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe, which is located north of the Arctic Circle.
Now, health authorities fear the ship could spread the virus to dozens of towns and villages along Norway's western coast, as the cruise ship line also doubles as a local ferry service.
The worry is that the virus may not have been contained on aboard and that passengers who disembarked along the route may have unknowingly spread the virus to their local communities.
A total of 69 municipalities in Norway may have been impacted, according to Norwegian news agency NTB.
Meanwhile, Hurtigruten has indefinitely suspended operations of three ships -- MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen – until further notice.
In a statement posted on the company’s website, Skjeldam said Hurtigruten is working closely with the Norwegian National and Local Health Authorities for follow-up, information, further testing, and infection tracking.
“In light of the recent increase in new cases of COVID-19 globally, the only responsible choice is to suspend all expedition sailings until we are absolutely confident, we can carry out our operations in line with all requirements from the Authorities and with the even stricter requirements we have set for ourselves,” stated Skjeldam.
Hurtigruten is currently reaching out to and informing guests booked on the now cancelled voyages.
The decision has no impact on Hurtigruten's coastal Norway operations, the company stated.
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