After nearly 48 hours docked in Salvador, without authorization to board or disembark passengers and crew, the Costa Diadema situation finally came to an end. Early this Friday afternoon (31), the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) suspended the vessel’s activities. The ship will return to the Port of Santos without reaching Ilhéus, the last destination that was provided for in the trip’s itinerary, which would only end on January 3rd.
Passengers who tested positive for covid-19 are quarantined at a hotel in the capital, provided by the cruise operator. Residents of Salvador who proved their residence were also authorized to disembark.
|Passengers residing in Salvador were allowed to disembark before the ship sails to Santos|
(Photo: Marina Silva / MAIL)
The measure was adopted by Anvisa after the epidemiological investigation conducted by the agency and technicians from the Health Departments of the State of Bahia and the Municipality of Salvador, which concluded the occurrence of community transmission of covid-19 on board the vessel. The Costa Diadema arrived in Salvador at 8 am on Thursday, with 3,836 passengers and crew on board.
In the last balance released by Anvisa at the end of that day, there were 68 cases of covid-19, which led to the suspension of the ship’s Certificate of Free Practice, preventing the liner from continuing its voyage or letting anyone enter or leave the ship. Not even supplies were released.
Among those who left the ship, in a chartered bus, were 56 crew members who tested positive for the disease. 35 passengers also stayed in Salvador, who tested negative and live here. The complete disembarkation will only take place in São Paulo, at the Port of Santos, where all passengers will be tested again.
“According to vessel reports, among passengers who tested positive for covid-19, the vast majority are asymptomatic, with only a few mild symptomatic individuals. The vessel will continue under restrictions during navigation, that is, all non-essential activities on board are interrupted and the sanitary safety protocols inside the vessel must be complied with until its final destination in Santos”, wrote the agency.
Samples taken from people on board who tested positive are being analyzed by Lacen to identify the dominant strain that caused the outbreak. According to the general director of the Central Public Health Laboratory (Lacen-BA), Arabela Leal, there is no forecast yet as to when the result of the analysis will be ready.
“Sequencing is a complex procedure. We still don’t have the release date for the results. After performing the RT-PCR, which ones meet the sequencing criteria will be evaluated”.
Since 8:00 am, the family of physiotherapist Ivo Carvalho had been waiting, in a reserved room on the Costa Diadema, for permission to disembark. More than five hours later, two reliefs: one, to make sure you’re going to spend the New Year off the cruise, and the other, from the testing to covid that you’ve got a negative result.
“My father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law were on the cruise. Since the ship arrived in Salvador, we have been expecting this, because as we left the Port of Santos we could hear comments about cases of contamination.” This was the first tourist trip for family members in the pandemic.
“They said that they were treated very well in relation to the services, but they criticized the lack of information for those on the ship”, said Ivo.
Inside the ship, the tourist from Goiás Vanderick Filho told TV Bahia the situation that passengers have been experiencing since the discovery of the outbreak. “What we are living here is complicated. Protocols are not being adhered to very much on the ship. Parties packed into the wee hours of the night. There are indoor environments where we see people with masks, but in outdoor areas, it’s not very common.”
Vanderick also said that passengers only became aware of the covid outbreak via the internet and social networks. He and his family were tested twice. “Each one tells a different story. The information we get is all from the external environment or someone from the crew. But, no official information from inside the ship. The most recent was given by the captain informing that the cruise was suspended, that we were going back to Santos and the restaurants and entertainment would be closed”.
The communiqué provoked a rush and crowding of passengers to store supplies, as the tourist from Goiás added. “At the same time, everyone ran to get water and take it to the cabin”.
Costa Crociere reinforced, in a note, that it cooperated with Anvisa: “The safety, health and well-being of guests, crew and communities in the destination are top priorities”. The company did not provide information about the expected arrival in Santos or guidance on reimbursements with the cancellation of the cruise. The agency suspended new operations by the vessel upon arriving at the Port of Santos, until there is a better assessment of the epidemiological scenario by the agency.
‘Avoid this type of trip’, says US agency
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last Thursday raised its warning level for cruise ships to 4, the highest on the scale. “Avoid this type of trip, regardless of the vaccination situation,” said the agency in a statement published in The New York Times and translated by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
The measure was announced after the number of cases on cruises grew in recent weeks, leading some ports to refuse vessels. Last week, dozens of people on a Royal Caribbean International company ship tested positive after the vessel departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Another Carnival Cruise Line ship returned to Miami on Sunday (26) after infections ‘among a small number of people on board’.
Calling the CDC’s decision ‘amazing’, the cruise industry group, the International Cruise Lines Association, said in a statement that the number of cases on board formed a very small minority of the total population.