With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving the first COVID-19 vaccination this week and several countries commencing vaccination programs, could cruise lines now require passengers to be inoculated as a pre-condition for travelling?
In issuing its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships – which replaced the earlier No Sail Order – in late October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it would require testing of passengers and crew as one of its conditions for the resumption of cruise operations, but made no mention of vaccinations.
However, one cruise executive has said his company is considering a move to require crew and passengers to be vaccinated as a condition for embarking on the company’s ships.
Norwegian considering asking passengers for ‘immunity passport’
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio told the Travel Leaders Group this week that ship crews would be required to get the vaccine and the company was also examining whether it could ask passengers to present an “immunity passport” before embarkation.
“It will certainly be a requirement for the crew,” Del Rio said in comments carried by Travel Weekly. “But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard — lawyers are looking at it as we speak.”
Del Rio said there was talk beginning to emerge from different corners of the travel industry, including airlines, of requiring some kind of immunity passport “demonstrating that you’ve had the virus or been vaccinated, so that you are good to go.”
“We have to build confidence in our customers and among ourselves that it’s safe to cruise,” he said.
While no other cruise line has made any mention of a vaccination requirement, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain has hailed the progress being made on the vaccine front, noting the statement by Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that “any American who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by April,” something Fain said would be “transformational.”
Qantas airline says it will require vaccination
One airline, Australia’s Qantas has already said that it will require proof of vaccination to board international flights.
“We are looking at changing terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the Australian television program ‘A Current Affair.’
Opposition to blanket vaccination requirement
The Airports Council International, a global body that represents airports around the world, has said however that requiring all passengers to be inoculated would be no less disruptive to the industry than quarantines and has called for a choice between testing or vaccination in order to board flights.
“Just as quarantine effectively halted the industry, a universal requirement for vaccines could do the same,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira told Reuters.
Back to normal by the end of 2021?
Regardless of their position on whether it is possible to require passengers to show proof of inoculation or whether blanket vaccination requirements are desirable or not, the travel industry across the board will be hoping that Fauci’s prediction of a return to normal by the end of 2021 comes true.
At an event at the Harvard School of Public Health, Fauci said that if 75 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated and the vaccine is rolled out quickly enough then “by the third quarter, we may actually have enough herd immunity protecting our society that as we get to the end of 2021, we can approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before.”
For the travel industry that moment can not come soon enough
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