A COVID-19 outbreak occurred last week on the Mein Schiff 2 German cruise ship which sailed to the Canary Islands, according to passengers about the ship. One of the guests aboard the ship, who wishes to remain anonymous, indicated that four other guests aboard the cruise ship tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of the cruise.
Mein Schiff Letter to Guests
The guest who informed us of the outbreak sent a copy of a letter which had been distributed to the passengers on February 5th. The letter claims that the infected passengers were “disinfected today . . . with the help of electric spray mist machines . . .”
After they were “disinfected,” these four guests, together with twenty others, were initially isolated on the ship and then quarantined ashore at a hotel in Gran Canaria (i.e., Grand Canary Island) in the Canary Islands. This group of twenty people had been identified as having been in close contact with the infected guests during the cruise; the group consisted of nine guests and eleven crew members.
Here is the translation of the letter which had been delivered to the German guests:
On board the Mein Schiff 2, February 5th, 2021
Current information about your trip – trip February 5 – February 12. 2021
We look forward to seeing you on board the Mein Schiff 2.
At the beginning of your vacation trip, we would like to provide you with some current information.
Our far-reaching health and hygiene concept has thus once again been preserved: As part of a test, four of around 1,000 guests on board the Mein Schiff 2 tested positive for COVID-19. The tests of all the other guests were negative. The crew was also tested today, all with negative results.
In accordance with the processes established with the Spanish authorities, the four guests and other guests who tested negative (identified as contact group 1) were immediately isolated on board and were disinfected today in compliance with all safety measures, including with the help of electric spray mist machines, and only after the prescribed action time released again.
So you can rest assured that you as a guest arriving today have no cause for concern.
We wish you a good start to your vacation.
The German Media Widely Reports the COVID-19 Outbreak
The outbreak, which has not been reported yet by the U.S. media, was widely reported by German newspapers and cruise bloggers. It was also widely discussed on social media, particularly on Twitter.
TAG24 reported on the outbreak with an article headlined with Corona Outbreak on Cruise Ship! Passengers in Island Quarantine. TUI admitted to the German media that four guests had tested positive for COVID-19 on February 5th. It confirmed that nine guests and eleven crew members were identified as persons who had come in close contact with the infected passengers. TUI also stated that it would be responsible for the accommodations of the group of contacts ashore. The costs of those who had tested positive would be covered by international travel insurance. The infected passengers reportedly have so far had no or only mild symptoms.
TAG24 also reported that “All of the other 1,000 or so guests tested negative for the corona virus and were able to travel home on Friday as planned.” The Kreuzfahrt-Aktuelles (cruise news) blog in Germany reported that the passengers were required to take rapid antigen tests, which were carried out in a bar aboard the ship. All of the 800 employees of the ship were also tested and the results were negative.
The German cruise blog Schiffe-und-Kreuzfahrten (“ships and cruises”) was the first to report on the outbreak on February 5th.
Did the Pre-Cruise Test Fail and Were the Guests Infected When They Boarded or Were the Guest Infected on the Ship?
TUI claims that its ships are under “strict hygiene requirements.” It ships, including the Mein Schiff 2, are sailing at reduced capacity with this particular ship sailing with only a maximum of around 60 percent of its usual guests on board so that social distancing can be observed. The German press generally mentions that passengers are required to take COVID-19 test before the cruise starts.
TUI states “all guests are tested negative for COVID-19 (at an unmentioned time) before starting the trip.” Its website explains that there are three test options. Guests can choose to take a HELIOS KLINIKEN test or a CENTOGENE COVID-19 test, the costs of which is included in the cruise fare. Or guests can also get tested by their family doctor or at a test center of their choice. The costs will be initially borne by the guests who will later receive an on-board credit of € 55 per person at the start of your journey.
It’s Not the First Time That A Mein Schiff Ship Tested Positive
Last July, we reported that crew members working for TUI Cruises tested positive for COVID-19. TUI initially refused to disclose the results of the tests, but later admitted that at least five Mein Schiff 1 crew members became infected with COVID-19. The German cruise blog called Kreuzfahrt-Aktuelles (cruise news) was the first to report this news.
5 Crewmitglieder, die für den Neustart der Mein Schiff 1 vorgesehen sind, wurden vorab positiv auf das Coronavirus getestet. Gemäß des neuen Prozesses bei TUI Cruises durften die Mitarbeiter nicht an Bord, um eine Ausbreitung des Virus zu verhindern.https://t.co/x6CZDAU36W
— Kreuzfahrt Aktuelles (@cruisenews_de) July 29, 2020
COVID-19 Testing is Erratic and Sometimes Flawed
It is important that pre-cruise testing involves several COVID-19 test results taken shortly before the passengers first board the ship. COVID-19 testing, or course, is not always accurate. False positive results and false negatives results on other cruise ships have been reported on this blog. In this case, when were the passengers first tested? Where the tests taken several days before the cruise? Were the passengers infected shortly before the cruise or on the ship itself?
Why Is TUI Group Cruising During a Deadly Pandemic When the German Foreign Services Office Specifically Warns Against Travel to the Canary Islands?
One German citizen responded to the outbreak on Twitter: “I ask myself: Which part of #StayAtHome did you not understand please? And why are you allowed to sail around on a ship with 1000 people, but not go for a walk in the park with 3 friends?” Another tweeted “Incomprehensible” in response to TUI’s claim that the cruise ship quickly was “cleaned and disinfected” and “left with guests again.”
Hammer. Nachdem die Infizierten und die Kontaktpersonen an Land in Quarantäne gingen: "Die "Mein Schiff 2" wurde umfangreich gereinigt und desinfiziert und hat schon am Wochenende wieder mit Gästen abgelegt.".
— Klaus Hinrichs (@klaushinrichs1) February 11, 2021
Like the U.S., Canada, U.K. and other Countries, Germany Warns Against Non-Essential Travel
The German newspaper Stern comments that the TUI cruises are controversial because Spain and thus the Canary Islands have been classified as an area with a particularly high risk of COVID-19 infections. The Foreign Office in Berlin in Germany clearly states: “We are currently warning against unnecessary tourist trips to Spain, including the Canary Islands.”
The Mein Schiff fleet of cruise ships is operated by the German TUI Group, which staffs, manages and operates the ships in a 50:50 joint venture with Royal Caribbean. Because Royal Caribbean has been stymied by “no sail” orders since early last year and an onerous “conditional sail” order last October by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean is essentially using the German cruising public, who chose to ignore Germany’s warnings against travel to Spain and the Canary Islands, as guinea pigs to see if TUI’s coronavirus protocols are effective.
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Photo credit: Top – Mein Schiff 2 – Daniel Bockwold/AP via USA TODAY; letter to passengers – anonymous; middle – Mein Schiff 2 – Kefalonia2015 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.