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Saturday, October 24th, 2020
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Research: Big Cruise Ships at Highest Risk for COVID-19 Outbreaks

Japanese soldiers and emergency workers in protective clothing walk from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier where it is being resupplied and newly diagnosed coronavirus cases taken for treatment. PHOTO: CARL COURT/GETTY IMAGES

Japanese study shows that the risk of infection on board a cruise ship increases proportionately as the number of passengers on board increases

TOKYO – Three Japanese researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have a published an important academic paper that analyzes the relationship between the cruise industry and the COVID-19 outbreak.

The paper, which is titled “The cruise industry and the COVID-19 outbreak“, was published on May 28, 2020, and is available to download on ScienceDirect.com.

The team used AIS data to track the global movement of the 392 ocean cruise ships in service from January to March 2020 and worked to tie the ships’ movements to COVID-19 outbreaks. They also analyzed the relationship between the size of the cruise ships at sea and the likelihood of an outbreak of COVID-19 occurring on board.

The paper highlights several important findings.

“COVID-19 infection rates in countries that have ports of arrival and departure are higher than in countries with only ports of call.”

“COVID-19 infection rates in countries that continued to accept cruise ships until March were higher than those in countries that did not.”

The risk of infection on board a ship increases proportionately as the number of passengers onboard increases

This last finding bears further elaboration. The team analyzed of 594 vessels, including river cruises. The median and average for all cruise ships they looked at are 312 and 1238 passengers, respectively. The passenger capacity of all infected cruise ships was above the median and average.

The problem with coronavirus is that unlike the chance of winning lotteries, it is contagious.

It is clear in the chart below that cruise ships infected with COVID-19 are large ships. It also makes sense. The larger a population of people that you have, the higher the probability of just about anything being present in that population becomes — lottery winners, supermodels and people infected with the coronavirus. The problem with coronavirus though is that unlike the chance of winning lotteries, it is contagious.

Graph

While this last finding from the study is difficult news for the major cruise lines that own the huge vessels, it does offer the industry its best way forward as it tries to start cruising again. Start small. Apply stringent controls such as those outlined by the Healthy Sail Panel.

Yes – there have already been failed attempts by smaller cruise lines to restart operations. But, if the science is to be believed, it is by keeping things small that you minimize the likelihood of coronavirus being present in a population of people. That coupled with preboarding testing and science based, on board health protocols outlined by the cruise industry’s Healthy Sail Panel are the only safe way forward.

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