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Royal caribbean’s Vision of the Sea.

Government is rejecting Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) request for T&T nationals aboard its Vision of the Seas cruise ship to begin quarantine while sailing to Trinidad.

The ship currently houses approximately 345 RCI employees who are seeking repatriation into T&T after COVID-19 crashed the cruise industry back in March.

Over the weekend, RCI said it was still working with the government to repatriate employees, adding that they will be required to complete a 14-day quarantine. The company said it received approval for the employees to complete the quarantine on board and requested approval for the period to begin while sailing, in hopes of expediting the employees’ return home.

At Monday’s COVID-19 update, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram recalled that last Wednesday, the Vision of the Seas dropped off 356 employees in St Vincent and the Grenadines of which eight were found to be COVID-19 positive. He said when the ship arrives in T&T, the employees will undergo similar testing.

“The quarantine process cannot begin before you come into Trinidad & Tobago waters. Moreso, because that is the same vessel that had eight positives out of 356 people from the Vincentian cohort of that ship. When the ship comes into Trinidad waters, we have to do a similar assessment that was done in terms of St Vincent, meaning taking samples from everyone on board and determining whether they are positive or negative.

“Based on that finding, then we will determine what is the best way forward. Of course, if we get a large group of positive people, the ship itself would become almost as an infected vessel, so we have to look at alternate means of quarantining. It really depends on what we find when we do the sampling when they come into Trinidad waters, but it cannot be prior to coming into Trinidad waters,” Parasram said.

The ship is currently docked in Barbados, awaiting permission to enter local waters. National Security Minister Stuart Young said the Ministry of National Security is still in discussion with RCI and are awaiting the details on the number of nationals that are working on RCI cruise ships and the vessels they are on.

“There is a concern that a number of vessels have had crew members who have very recently, within the past few days, tested positive for COVID-19 and our nationals are on these vessels. The quarantine issue is for determination by the Chief Medical Officer when we are provided with the details we are seeking.

“There are issues that need to be worked out as we believe that there are approximately 360 crew members who are Trinidad & Tobago nationals working with Royal Caribbean,” Young said.

He said those arrangements should be completed within the next few days. Meanwhile, Oceania Cruises has rescheduled the date of the MS Marina’s arrival in T&T from June 11 to June 18. There are 14 T&T nationals aboard the cruise ship. The ship was expected to leave Belize today for other Central and South American counties as it continues its repatriation of employees.