Cruise Ship Visits May Have Caused Coronavirus Infections Along Norwegian Coast

The harbor of Tromso in Norway. Photo: Yngve Olsen Saebbe, CC BY-SA 2.0

The cruise ship Roald Amundsen, belonging to Norwegian Cruise Lines, may have inadvertently occasioned the spreading of the coronavirus along the coast of Norway in a string of ports the gigantic vessel recently visited. The ship, which normally carries a total of 530 passengers, is now docked at Tromso.

The cruise line announced that a total of five passengers and 36 crew members have now tested positive for the coronavirus. Fears are now that these individuals may have inadvertently spread the virus when they disembarked for dozens of visits recently along the spectacular Norwegian coast.

The line has now tested all 158 crew members who work and live on the Amundsen.

All those who have tested positive from the ship have now been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromso, which is in the land of the Sami, or Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle.

The main worry is that the ship is not completely self-contained but it rather serves as a local ferry in these far northern cities and towns, transporting local people to other places on the coast.

A total of 69 cities and towns may have been affected by the spread of the virus, according to the Norwegian news outlet NTB.

Hurtigruten, the company which owns Norwegian Cruise Line, released a statement by their CEO, Daniel Skjeldam in response to the incident, saying “A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures.”

The line announced that the operations of three ships — MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen — have now been halted for an indefinite period of time.

Skjeldam also said that his company is now in the process of reviewing all cruises the company is planning between the university city of Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the north. Hurtigruten is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures, and all aspects of our own handling,” according to the CEO.

The giant cruise ship had taken passengers on two recent voyages, one from July 17 – 24, with 209 guests, and the next, from July 25 – 31 which transported 178 people from Bergen to Svalbard in the extreme northern part of the country, an area where polar bears are often seen by visitors.

Skjeldam had previously stated that the ship’s officials were unaware that they were required to notify their passengers as soon as the first case was detected on July 31. However, an official from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health stated that its guidelines state that passengers and crew must be informed “as soon as possible” so that the appropriate measures could be taken.

The company admitted in their statement “We have made mistakes. On behalf of all of us in Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take full responsibility.”