Arrival testing dropped just as cruise ships set to make a return to Canada

Arrival testing dropped just as cruise ships set to make a return to Canada

There hasn’t been anyone to welcome at Victoria cruise ship terminal for the past two years but that’s all about to change with the first ship set to arrive in less than three weeks. Now it will be even easier for passengers to visit.

“Passengers on a cruise will need to take an antigen test no more than one day before the scheduled departure but will no longer be required to be tested before getting off the cruise ship,” said Canada’s Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra.

That means the nearly 800,000 cruise visitors expected to arrive in Victoria this season won’t have to test before disembarking the ship and hitting the local streets and shops.

“This is no different than passengers getting off a plane in the airport or coming across on ferries, they are not subject to this testing so I think cruise should not be any different,” said Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson.

READ MORE: Vaccinated travellers will no longer need a COVID-19 test to come to Canada

But at the start of the pandemic the cruise industry was fraught with COVID-19 related issues. There were numerous outbreaks, people were trapped on ships in foreign ports, and workers in hazmat suits were seen on board conducting testing.

But the industry insists this time is different and many lessons have been learned in the past two years. Now everyone boarding a cruise ship needs to be fully vaccinated, ventilation has been improved, occupancy rates have been lowered, and a negative rapid antigen test is still needed to get on board.

“Even during the Omicron surge we saw around the world when cruising was operating in December and January, we saw 600,000 people get on a cruise ship and literally you could count on one hand the number of people who got sick enough with COVID to have to go to a hospital,” said Barry Penner, spokesperson for Cruise Lines International Association of Canada.

With those safety protocols in place, BC’s COVID-19 Modelling Group says rates of COVID may actually be lower among people disembarking from a cruise ship than in those within the community.

“Restrictions do little to help when the rate of community spread is the same or even higher than that among travellers,” said researcher Sally Otto.

“I think the cruise lines have certainly proven that they’re a safe and secure mode of travel, I think the residents of Victoria can feel fairly safe and secure,” said Robertson.

Victoria is expecting 358 cruise ship calls and roughly 797,000 passengers as the season resumes starting April 6.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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