12 crew members test positive for COVID-19 on cruise ship sailing in Greece

ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say 12 crew members of a Maltese-flagged cruise ship on a Greek island tour with more than 1,500 people on board have tested positive to the coronavirus and have been isolated on board.

The Mein Schiff 6, operated by TUI Cruises, began its trip in Heraklion on the southern Greek island of Crete on Sunday night, with 922 passengers and 666 crew members on board, Greece’s Shipping Ministry said Monday. It had been due to sail to Piraeus, the country’s main port near the Greek capital, Athens, and later to the western island of Corfu.

Godja Sönnichsen, TUI Cruises director of communications, said all crew members are tested before they board and go into a 14-day-self-isolation on board before they can work.

“In the course of the early warning system, the crew on board is furthermore regularly tested for COVID-19,” Sönnichsen told USA TODAY in a statement, noting that the line received positive test results from an external laboratory for the 12 crew members Monday morning. “None of the 12 crew members has any symptoms.”

Sample tests for the coronavirus were carried out on 150 of the crew members, the ministry said, and 12 of them were found to be positive. The passengers had undergone coronavirus tests before boarding and were not part of the sample testing.

Sönnichsen noted that the 12 crew members were immediately isolated and are “being tested again with our PCR rapid test device on board.” Four of the test results are back and are negative. “In addition, we will take further swabs from the crew members and send them to an external laboratory.”

The cruise is headed to Piraeus, near Athens. “We will stick to our original itinerary and sail to Piräus tomorrow, this has been decided in accordance with the Greek authorities,” Sönnichsen said.

Greek health authorities said the ship was expected to arrive on Tuesday, and a National Public Health Organization team would be on hand to retest the 12 positive cases, as well as anyone else deemed necessary by the ship’s crew and onboard doctor. The health authority said all 12 of those who had tested positive were asymptomatic and with a “low viral load.”

“Thanks to the extensive hygiene measures and clearance rules on board, there is no reason for guests and crew to worry,” Sönnichsen said.

TUI Cruises is based in Germany and is a joint venture between German tourism company TUI Group and Royal Caribbean Group. 

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