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Australian health agency officially rescinds COVID-19 rules on cruising


More Australian states and territories are expected to follow NSW and WA by quickly lifting outdated health guidelines on cruising.

Mandatory vaccination and mask wearing rules on cruise ships have been rescinded.

CLIA Australasia says it expects other Australian states to quickly follow the lead of New South Wales and Western Australia in removing COVID-19 health guidelines following formal advice from Australia’s national health watchdog.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) recently voted to rescind specific health guidelines in place for the cruising industry which required all travellers 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to wear masks while in indoor areas onboard, with the updated advice taking effect last Friday 25 August.

NSW Premier Chris Minns has now formally signed off on removing the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols after prompting the move in comments last week.

“We have scrapped these rules because they aren’t needed any more,” Premier Minns said.

“Cruise companies have been looking after their guests and workers and we encourage them to continue that.

“These protocols were important at the time to get the cruising industry going again after COVID. They were never meant to remain forever.”

Despite the change, the AHPPC still considers cruise ships to present a heightened risk for transmission.

Western Australia has also now confirmed it will axe the guidelines, with other states and territories likely to not be far behind.

Despite the change, the AHPPC said in a statement that it still considered cruise ships to be a high-risk setting for communicable disease due to high numbers of people mixing in closed spaces and “the typically longer duration of cruises compared to other transport”.

It warned cruise ship operators to continue to employ industry best practice to minimise transmission of communicable diseases through policies and procedures that reduce the risk of outbreaks, minimise risk to local communities and effectively managing cases should they occur onboard.

This included managing staff health including maintaining records of staff vaccination status, encouraging passengers and crew to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and destination-specific inoculations.

Other recommendations include encouraging guests with cold and flu symptoms to remain in their cabins and to wear a mask if entering crowded spaces, promptly identifying and controlling outbreaks onboard if they occur, communicating regularly to passengers onboard if an outbreak occurs and providing access to hand sanitiser, testing facilities and support for passengers affected.

CLIA Managing Director Joel Katz says cruise lines will continue their own robust health programs.

CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz said the NSW Premier had written to the association to confirm the changes following the AHPPC announcement.

“This brings Australia into line with other countries internationally and gives clarity to cruise passengers ahead of the coming summer cruise season,” Katz said.

“As the last major cruise destination to maintain cruise-specific measures, Australia’s ongoing testing and vaccination requirements had been causing increasing confusion among travellers, particularly as measures on land and at airports had been removed.

“The cruise industry’s top priority will continue to be the health and safety of guests, crew and the communities we visit.

“Cruise lines will continue to abide by their own robust health and safety measures and hygiene standards, and the industry will work closely with health authorities into the future.”

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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 27 August 2023

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