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HEALTH

Second major cruise line resumes post-lockdown sailing in Italy

Costa Cruises returned to Italian waters this week, with the Costa Deliziosa setting sail from the Adriatic port of Trieste after a coronavirus furlough of more than five months.

Second major cruise line resumes post-lockdown sailing in Italy
The Costa Deliziosa docked in Barcelona on its last voyage in April. Photo: AFP
The ship is heading for southern Italy and will call at Bari, Brindisi, Corigliano-Rossano, Siracusa and Catania, according to a press release.
 
Carrying only Italian residents as part of its precautions against Covid-19 contagion, its weeklong outing will follow an all-Italy itinerary of Adriatic
and Mediterranean ports.
 
Following a strict protocol, passengers had their temperatures taken, were tested for Covid-19 and completed a health questionnaire before being allowed
on board.
 
The crew had been tested for the virus and spent 14 days in quarantine before the departure.
 
Social distancing rules also meant the elimination of the traditional dinner buffet, and the use of restaurants, bars and swimming pools
will be carefully scheduled to limit numbers.
 
Staff scan cruise pasengers' temperatures ahead of boarding. Photo: AFP
 
The coronavirus pandemic visited an unprecedented crisis on the cruise ship industry, which had been enjoying robust growth since 2018.
 
Not only were operators forced to ground their ships, but they faced accusations of botching the handling of the epidemic in its early stages.
 
Cruise lines are hoping that tighter protocols will allow them to control the still-lingering threat of coronavirus aboard their ships while still
offering travellers a worthwhile cruise experience.
 
Several of Costa's rivals have already returned to sea. Italian operator MSC Cruises was the first to set sail again in Italy as the MSC Grandiosa left the northwest port of Genoa on August 16th, also for a weeklong cruise.
 
 
 
Italy represents the bulk of Europe's cruise industry, reaping 14.5 billion euros of revenue per year ($17 billion) and supporting nearly 53,000 jobs, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
 
The industry faces rough waters as it tries to lure back cruisers, who tend to be older and thus more vulnerable to Covid-19.
 
Costa Cruises in particular faces a public relations nightmare, with 180 complaints lodged against the company by French passengers including for manslaughter from the families of three who died of Covid-19.
 
The Costa Deliziosa also made headlines last year when it came close to hitting a dock in Venice during a storm.
 
Venice is typically a highlight of Italian cruises, receiving more than a million passengers a year. But as sailing resumes it doesn't look set be the starting point, destination or even a stopover for any ships operated by Italy's biggest cruise companies.
 
The news that cruise ships will stay away has been hailed as a victory by anti-cruise campaigners in Venice, but it's not yet clear why operators are steering clear, or for how long.
 
Costa Cruises’ next ship due back in service is the Costa Diadema, scheduled to leave from Genoa on September 19th.
 
It too will only be calling at Italian ports and carrying guests from Italy, with stopovers in Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo, Cagliari and La Spezia.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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