The Council can confirm there were a small number of positive cases of COVID-19 on board two cruise liners that visited Kirkwall yesterday, Monday 20 September.
These included four passengers on board the Marella Explorer 2 which was at anchor in Kirkwall, and one passenger from the Celebrity Silhouette, which called alongside Hatston Pier.
An elderly male was transferred by ambulance to the Balfour Hospital at the request of the ship and in agreement with NHS Orkney. Four females had mild to no symptoms and were being isolated on board in designated cabins. All known close contacts were also isolated on board the vessels and enhanced sanitisation procedures were in place.
Passenger numbers on board both vessels remain limited to allow for ease of social distancing.
Head of Marine Services, Transportation and Harbour Master Jim Buck said:
“We have played host to 23 ships since the resumption of the cruise industry in July, including many thousands of passengers and crew, and there have only been a handful of confirmed cases during this time. These isolated incidents have been contained very quickly without further spread, so the procedures in place by both the vessels and the Port side have worked well.
“No one can ever guarantee a situation can be 100 per cent secure, particularly when dealing with a virus that has an incubation period, however, we are confident that the measures which are in place have done as they were designed to do.
“With the lifting of many restrictions, we have all been aware of the ongoing spike in cases throughout Scotland – Orkney has also experienced this, although, thankfully, to a much lesser degree. The virus remains within our own communities and we saw recently with the clusters in a few of our larger schools and the wider community how easy it is for this to spread. The immediate actions of NHS Orkney Public Health and the Education Service – alongside the public – also demonstrated how quickly it is possible to react and get on top of a situation and everyone is to be commended for that.
“Cruise travellers are subject to much tighter regulations than most others – they must be double vaccinated if eligible, a negative COVID test is required before boarding, regular onboard testing is also required by some, alongside reduced numbers, social distancing, the wearing of masks in communal areas other than if seated and eating or drinking, temperature checks – the list is fairly extensive. Yes, there have been a very small number of positive cases, but these have been contained extremely quickly and have not led to further spread.”
Public Health in Orkney provided key guidance, support and advice.
In line with the current guidance, passengers and crew who were not close contacts of the positive cases and showed no symptoms could leave the vessel and enjoy what Orkney has to offer, however, Mr Buck emphasised:
“The passengers were reminded of their responsibilities when moving around. If a vessel is at anchor the tenders that are used are also carrying passengers at reduced capacity and face coverings must be worn. Bus operators are also carrying out enhanced cleaning of the vehicles between usage. All mitigations are in place to try and reduce the transmission of the virus.
“We must all remember that no one sets out to catch or spread this virus. Our thoughts are with the elderly gentleman who has required hospitalisation and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Cruise vessels operate with COVID-19 Management Plans which include all mitigations in place and requirements for passengers such as being double vaccinated when eligible, and negative COVID tests ahead of boarding.
The Orkney News will bring you more on this story as details unfold. Meanwhile our best wishes go to all those concerned, stay safe.