Eight passengers test positive for COVID-19 on Costa Cruises ship
Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95% of the cruise industry, introduced mandatory requirements to be able to set sail again. USA TODAY
Eight passengers who sailed on Costa Cruises' Costa Diadema have tested positive for COVID-19, Roger Frizzell, spokesperson for Carnival Corp., the parent company to Costa, confirmed to USA TODAY Friday. The cruise ship, which continued on its journey carrying all French passengers, will cut its voyage short as France has reinstated its state of health emergency in relation to COVID-19.
Costa Diadema, which was chartered by a French company and had all French passengers, departed from Genoa on Sept. 28 and ended its journey on Oct. 12. It then departed on a second 14-day voyage with many of the same passengers on board Oct. 12 and returned to Genoa on Friday 10 days earlier than intended.
On Oct. 10, seven passengers from the first sailing disembarked in Palermo after testing positive for COVID-19.
"All guests were tested and required to be negative to board," Frizzell said. "Following excursions in Greek islands, (they were) tested again before returning to Italy, and seven preliminarily tested positive." As part of the cruise line's coronavirus protocols, passengers are required to be tested if they leave the country of the ship's origin and return to that country in accordance with Italian law.
After the news of the positive tests came and the passengers disembarked, they were retested in facilities in Palermo. "(They) were isolated and immediately disembarked in dedicated onshore facilities in Palermo in agreement with Italian health ities, per protocol," Frizzell said.
A third test on shore was also positive for all seven, who were asymptomatic.
The first sailing continued on as planned after disembarking the affected passengers in Palermo and made excursions, including stops in Sardinia and Civitavecchia near Rome, before wrapping up its voyage and then departing for the second voyage Oct. 12.
On the Diadema, Costa was "piloting" new contact tracing technology, Frizzell said.
As a result of the contact tracing, Costa identified one other passenger who displayed symptoms of COVID-19. That passenger was tested on board and retested shoreside and was positive for COVID-19.
"They disembarked one other passenger at a port of call who had symptoms. That was in Naples," he said. "All the guests were tested after that before they came into Genoa."
All other passengers tested negative.
"Based on the epidemiological situation in France and the new limitations introduced by the French government on Oct. 14, we took the decision to anticipate the end of the cruise," Costa Cruises said in a statement provided by Frizzell.
"The responsible choice was taken in order to allow a safe return of passengers to their country," the cruise line continued.
Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron reinstated the country's state of health emergency, which ended three months ago. Patients with COVID-19 occupy a third of intensive care units across France. The country has more than 850,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 33,000 related deaths, according to USA TODAY and Johns Hopkins data.
On an earnings call last week, Carnival Corp. touted that it has found a "way to go forward" with cruising in U.S. waters in 2020 thanks to Costa Cruises' success. At the time, Costa Cruises had not seen a single case of COVID-19 on board its ships in the more than a month-long period that it had been sailing.
The cluster of cases does not change that outlook for Carnival Corp., Frizzell said.
"It's part of the protocol that has been developed specifically for these situations," Frizzell said, noting extensive testing and "aggressive action" are part of how they are facing the prospect of COVID-19 cases.
Costa Diadema is one of three Costa ships, including Costa Deliziosa and Costa Smeralda, to sail since the line resumed operations in the Mediterranean on Sept. 6. On Dec. 27 the cruise line plans to introduce a new ship, the Costa Firenze.
Carnival Corp. plans to move forward with AIDA Cruises' first sailing scheduled to depart from Civitavecchia, Italy, on Saturday. However, Carnival has canceled all November sailings in U.S. waters, past the expiration date for the Centers for Disease Control's "no-sail" order.
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Contributing: Joshua Bote, Jessica Flores, Doyle Rice