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Italians Are Exploiting ‘Lockdown Loophole’ On Mediterranean Sea

A welcome reprieve. But is the cruise ship industry blowing a rare opportunity to innovate?

Italy was one of the first European countries to get its throat tickled by coronavirus. From being one of the most sought after holiday spots in the world it went to being one of the most feared, as rates of the Spicy Cough soared sky high at the beginning of the pandemic.

Italy COVID cases reached 59,138 on the 23rd of March 2020 – the biggest coronavirus outbreak at the time outside of Asia. Italy was also the second most affected coronavirus country in the world, then, with the cases increasing at a higher rate than any other country.

As Pharmaceutical Technology reported in March 2020, “COVID-19 Italy death toll reached 5,476, witnessing a sharp increase in the last few days. On 21 March, the country reported the highest deaths of approximately 800 in a single day.”

“The Italian coronavirus cases surged from hundreds to thousands within two weeks, from a few hundred in the third week of February to more than 3,000 in the first week of March and crossed 10,000 on 10 March.”

“The high number of coronavirus infection cases in Italy may be explained by the expanding air travel with China.”

RELATED: Milan Bans ‘Iconic’ Italian Activity; Locals Respond In Surprising Fashion

Stringent rules and regulations have since come into place in an attempt to regain control. This has led to Italians being denied many of life’s indulgences over the last twelve months.

Now though, Italians have found a way to enjoy some of life’s little pleasures even while they continue to be banned on the mainland (and even while others criticize the cruise ship industry for not taking this moment in time as a moment to reform, rather than steam on).

 

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The solution? Cruise ships.

As Fox26 News reports, “Italy may be in a strict coronavirus lockdown this Easter but a few miles offshore, guests aboard the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship are shimmying to Latin music on deck and sipping cocktails by the pool.”

“In one of the anomalies of lockdowns that have shuttered hotels and resorts around the world, the Grandiosa has been plying the Mediterranean Sea this winter with seven-night cruises, a lonely flag-bearer of the global cruise industry.”

“Cruisers love to cruise, and they will go where the ships are sailing,” an industry spokesperson said of the holiday.

 

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“After cruise ships were early sources of highly publicised coronavirus outbreaks, the Grandiosa has tried to chart a course through the pandemic with strict anti-virus protocols approved by Italian authorities that seek to create a ‘health bubble’ on board,” Mail Online reports.

Passengers and crew are tested for COVID before and during cruises. Mask rules, temperature checks, contact-tracing wristbands and frequent cleaning are all implemented to prevent outbreaks.

According to Mail Online, “Passengers from outside Italy must arrive with negative COVID-19 tests taken within 48 hours of their departures and only residents of Europe’s Schengen countries plus Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria are permitted to book under COVID-19 insurance policies.”

Photos under the ‘MSC Grandiosa’ Instagram geotag show passengers appearing to enjoy the freedom to eat in a restaurant or sit next to a pool – sans mask.

“After a year of restrictive measures, we thought we could take a break for a week and relax,” said Stefania Battistoni, a 39-year-old teacher and single mother who drove all night from Bolzano, in northern Italy, with her two sons and mother to board the cruise, Mail Online reports.

Instagram user @dino4499, who was also one one such cruise, told DMARGE, “It was such an amazing experience. I wasn’t used anymore to eating in a restaurant after 10pm or enjoying nightlife. All the shops were open and this was weird too considering that in Italy shops have been closed since February.”

 

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“The cruise was completely COVID-free, every day we have been tested with COVID tests and constantly checked with bracelets – with this all the restrictions about distance could be respected.”

“The life on the cruise reminded me of a kind of normality that we lost last year. The atmosphere was a mix of unbelief and happiness. I believe everyone was trying to find something similar to our life before COVID.”

“In every excursion, we were been constantly monitored. We were only allowed to follow the guide and the rules were very strict if someone had violated them. I think this is why this cruise is a success.”

The pandemic has sunk global cruise ship passenger numbers. In 2019 the industry saw a record 30 million hop aboard, with 32 million forecast to travel by cruise in 2020. That didn’t happen. Instead, as Traveller reports, 2020 was more in the realm of 350,000 (since July).

Traveller also reports that, “According to an independent consulting firm, Bermello Ajamii & Partners, just 23 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed on ships since the industry began its tentative relaunch last summer.” Going by these statistics the passenger infection rate is remarkably low: 0.006 per cent.

 

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However, cruise industry critics argue the risk isn’t worth it. To that end – Traveller reports Jim Ace of environmental group Stand Earth saying: “Cruise ship companies could have used the COVID shutdown to address their impacts on public health and the environment. Instead, they scrapped a few of their oldest ships and raised cash to stay alive.”

“All large cruise ships burn huge volumes of the dirtiest, cheapest fuel available.”

One to mull over as you sip your next frozen Margarita.

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