Current context of COVID-19
With the wide availability and uptake of vaccination and oral treatments for COVID-19, the risks for the Australian population has reduced and public health measures taken by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments have changed accordingly.
We have shifted to managing COVID-19 consistent with other common communicable diseases, focusing on prevention and management of serious illness, hospitalisations and death.
In this context, the AHPPC considers there is no longer a need for COVID-19 specific recommendations and guidance to apply to the cruise industry.
Health risks associated with cruise ships
Cruise ships remain a higher risk setting for communicable disease. There is an increased risk of transmission of communicable diseases such as gastroenteritis and respiratory infections, including influenza (flu) and COVID-19. These viral infections can be serious, particularly for people who are at higher risk of severe illness. The risk is higher on-board cruise ships than in the general community due to the high numbers of people mixing in relatively closed spaces, and the typically longer duration of cruises compared to other transport.
Role of cruise operators in risk mitigation
Cruise operators should continue to look to industry best practice to minimise transmission of communicable diseases including COVID-19, other acute respiratory infections and gastroenteritis through policies and procedures that reduce the risk of outbreaks, minimise risk to local communities, and effectively managing cases should an outbreak occur.
Cruise operators can help reduce the risk by:
- managing staff health including maintaining records of staff vaccination status;
- encouraging passengers and crew to stay up to date with COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations as well as any destination-specific travel vaccinations;
- encourage those who have cold or flu symptoms to stay in their cabin and if leaving their cabin to wear a mask and avoid crowded spaces
- maintaining and following plans to promptly identify and control outbreaks of communicable diseases on board;
- communicating regularly to passengers about communicable diseases on board and how to prevent further spread; and
- providing ready access to hand sanitation, appropriate testing, management and support for passengers and crew with communicable diseases including to keep others safe.
Cruise operators should continue to check with jurisdictional authorities about specific requirements and considerations for cruise ships in each jurisdiction.
The AHPPC will continue to monitor developments and may issue updated guidance should future developments warrant it.