As COVID-19 Resurges in Australia, Cruise Ship Returns With 800 Cases

Majestic Princess
File image courtesy Princess Cruises

Published Nov 13, 2022 11:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

In an echo of the outbreak aboard Ruby Princess in 2020, the Majestic Princess returned to Sydney, Australia with 800 positive cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. The passengers were allowed to disembark and all cases were mild or asymptomatic, according to Carnival Australia.

The first cases were noticed about halfway through the vessel's 12-day trip. Those who tested positive while under way stayed isolated in their staterooms. The 3,300 passengers on board all took rapid tests in the day before they disembarked, and 800 tested positive. These passengers were instructed to avoid public transportation, according to New South Wales Health. 

The rise of new Omicron subvariants is driving up transmission rates in Australia, and reported infection numbers have doubled in the past week. The cruise sector is not immune from the overall trend. Carnival Australia President Marguerite Fitzgerald said in a statement Saturday that the firm has seen higher rates of COVID-19 positives over the past three voyages. 

Southern outbreak

Australia is far from the only nation affected by the Omicron resurgence. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which operates McMurdo Station on the southern tip of Antarctica’s Ross Island, has announced that it has been forced to halt traveling to Antarctica over the next two weeks to contain the spread of COVID.

This comes after a significant surge in positive cases among researchers and support staff at the station, which serves as the epicenter of U.S research in Antarctica. NSF said currently there are 64 active cases and there have been 98 positive tests since the beginning of October, out of the total population of 993. Most of the positive cases have mild symptoms and are isolating to contain the spread.

“Consistent with the U.S. NSF commitment to balance research and operational needs while containing the spread of COVID cases in Antarctica, NSF is implementing a pause on all travel to the continent for the next two weeks, effective immediately, while we reassess the situation,” said NSF. The pause does not apply to essential travel required for health and safety reasons.

Christchurch, New Zealand is the departure point for flights in and out of McMurdo Station, and like much of Australia and New Zealand, the city has seen rapidly rising community case counts.