Eight passengers that sailed aboard Costa Diadema tested positive for COVID, according to a report from USA Today.
The ship is one of three from Costa Cruises that has returned to sailing European itineraries with extensive new protocols in place to keep passengers healthy.
According to the report, the ship was chartered by a French company and sailed on a two-week trip from September 28 until October 12. On October 10, seven passengers were taken off the ship in Palermo, Italy, after testing positive for COVID.
A statement provided to USA Today by Carnival Corporation (the parent company of Costa Cruises) explained that the sick passengers were “isolated and immediately disembarked in dedicated onshore facilities in Palermo in agreement with Italian health authorities, per protocol.”
From there, the cruise continued, returning on October 12 to Genoa. The ship then departed on another two-week sailing, but returned on Friday, October 16 after another passenger was identified through contact tracing and tested positive.
With this additional positive test, the cruise line opted to end the cruise, which was said to consist entirely of French passengers. All other passengers were tested before disembarkation and were 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.
“The responsible choice was taken in order to allow a safe return of passengers to their country.”
New Protocols May Have Prevented More Cases
Cases of coronavirus are spiking in Europe, with many countries seeing a new record number of daily infections. France, for example, saw a peak of around 4,500 cases per day in April. The last seven days have averaged about 20,000 cases per day. Italy peaked in March at roughly 5,600 daily cases. It is now at roughly 6,000 cases per day.
This spike in cases comes as cruise lines were allowed to restart in the region, albeit with stringent protocols. Things like complete testing of passengers and crew before boarding, increased sanitation, limited capacity, and social distancing measures were put in place.
Even so, cruise line executives have warned that cases on ships were likely, and it was a situation they have been preparing for.
“With all the protocols we have, there’s still likely, eventually at some point, to be a case on board,” said Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald recently. “If it’s in the community overall, there’s no perfect system to prevent it.”
In this case, it appears that those measures helped in identifying and minimizing the number of passengers who fell ill.
According to the report from USA Today, the first seven guests were found positive via testing when returning from shore excursions and were asymptomatic. The eighth passenger was identified via contact tracing and tested positive. All other passengers are said to have tested negative.
Even so, more cases could be tied to this outbreak in the days ahead.
What Will Happen Following These Cases on a Cruise Ship?
Of course, this news questions if future cruises could be impacted. COVID cases in Europe are spiking, with countries putting rules in place to help limit spread on land, including curfews, and mask regulations.
Back in the United States, the CDC recently extended the “No Sail Order” for just a month until the end of October. Up until now, cruise executives from multiple lines had expressed strong confidence about returning to sailing from the U.S. before the end of the year.
With the spike in cases in Europe, and the first cases seen on a major cruise ship since they returned to the region, it calls into question if trips will be allowed to continue in Europe and if they will be allowed to restart in the United States.
Notably, Carnival’s AIDA cruise line is scheduled to begin sailing from Italy beginning tomorrow. All passengers will be tested before boarding and before disembarkation when returning home.
Also #AidaCruises, the German brand of the Costa Group, restarts from #Italy. AIDAblu will sail tomorrow from Civitavecchia for her first cruise, with a seven-day itinerary allowing German guests to visit five different Italian destinations. @CostaCruises https://t.co/xbyc8i1vPH pic.twitter.com/JyKXx6KBLT
— Costa Press Office (@Costa_Press) October 16, 2020