36 Hurtigruten Crew, One Paul Gauguin Guest Test Positive for COVID-19

Exterior of the hybrid powered cruise ship
(Courtesy of Hurtigruten) Thirty-six crew members on Hurtigruten's Raoul Amundsen have tested positive for COVID-19.

It hasn't been smooth sailing this week for two small ship lines on either side of the globe. 

After one Hurtigruten crew member on Roald Amundsen was admitted to a Tromso, Norway hospital for a non-COVID-19 (coronavirus) illness but then tested positive for COVID-19, all crew members were tested. Thirty-six Hurtigruten crew members in total have tested positive, and Roald Amundsen will not sail again until September. 

A separate situation is currently unfolding on Paul Gauguin Cruises in Tahiti, where one guest on the Paul Gauguin has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Hurtigruten's Statement

On Sunday, Travel Agent received this press statement from Hurtigruten: 

"All 158 crew members on Hurtigruten's expedition ship MS Roald Amundsen have now been tested for possible coronavirus infection. 36 have tested positive for COVID-19, while 122 are confirmed as negative. The ship is currently docked in Tromso, Norway with no guests onboard.

"Four crew members were confirmed positive Friday. Extensive testing of the entire crew has concluded that additional 32 crew members are confirmed as COVID-19 positive. 122 of the crew have tested negative.

"None of the 154 crew members still on board the ship—including the 32 new confirmed positive tests Saturday—has shown any signs of disease or symptoms of COVID-19."

The statement continued: "We are now focusing all available efforts in taking care of our guests and colleagues. We work closely with the Norwegian national and local health authorities for follow-up, information, further testing, and infection tracking ... The initial four crew members that were infected were isolated several days ago because of other disease symptoms, showing no symptoms of COVID-19. They were routinely tested before being admitted to a hospital in Tromso, Norway Friday morning.

"Hurtigruten is in contact with all guests that were on board MS Roald Amundsen's July 17 and 24 departures."

The line also said that "209 guests from the first voyage and 178 guests from the July 24 departure will self-quarantine in line with Norwegian health authority regulations. Hurtigruten also assists guests with transport, accommodation, food and other needs.

"The safety and well-being of our guests and crew is Hurtigruten’s number-one priority. All crew members are closely monitored and screened daily. Non-Norwegian crew members are quarantined before boarding the ship, and non-European crew need to undergo two negative COVID-19 tests before even leaving their home country, Ege says.

"MS Roald Amundsen was scheduled to sail to Svalbard on Friday afternoon. That voyage is now cancelled. The next cruise with the ship is not planned until September."

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Hurtigruten has also temporarily suspended all expedition sailings on MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen until further notice.

Situation on Paul Gauguin

Across the globe in Tahiti, one case of suspected COVID-19 has been detected in a guest on Paul Gauguin Cruises' Paul Gauguin, according to a report published Saturday in The Maritime Executive, which said the French Polynesia High Commission is now in charge of the situation and doing contact tracing; the ship had previously been in Bora BoraSeatrade also reported that after the ship's doctor confirmed the case, passengers were asked to stay in their accommodations and the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin returned to its home port of Papeete, Tahiti. 

Paul Gauguin, in a statement provided to Travel Agent, said: "As required by the health protocol in force in French Polynesia, a double test is applied to all foreign passengers boarding The Gauguin: The first days days maximum before the international flight, the second four days after arrival in French Polynesia.

"The first test of the passenger concerned was negative before her departure from the United States. The second test carried out on board, on August 1, as a self-sampling and then transmitted to the Polynesian authorities, was positive.

"As soon as the Polynesian authorities informed the Captain of The Gauguin of the positive result on Sunday, 2nd of August, the vessel immediately turned around and returned to the departure point of the cruise, Papeete. The passenger, an asymptomatic 22-year-old woman, was immediately taken care of by the medical team on board and confined in a special cabin. As a precautionary measure and in accordance with company protocol, all passengers and crew members were also placed in isolation."

The cruise line adds that the ship arrived in Papeete on Sunday 2 at 8 a.m. (local time) and the passenger and her mother, who were traveling together, were disembarked under sanitary corridor and received in a hotel provided for that purpose.

A new test was carried out on the guest, as well as on all persons who had been in contact with her, including both passengers and crew members. The guest received a positive test result but "all other results are negative, which confirms the quality of the health protocols in force on board," said Paul Gauguin Cruises.

"The teams will organize the disembarkation under sanitary corridor for all passengers, residing in Polynesia or coming from abroad, in the coming hours," the statement continued. "Crew members will be able to remain in quarantine on board for seven days. All passengers and crew members who have been on board will have to be retested within seven days."

Paul Gauguin cancelled the cruise; all passengers will be contacted by the cruise line regarding the cancellation of the cruise and compensation.

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