60 passengers test positive for Covid-19 after river cruise

Qin Xie
·2-min read
The cruise was sailing from Passau to Frankfurt (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The cruise was sailing from Passau to Frankfurt (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A German river cruise became the centre of a superspreading event after around two thirds of the passengers on board tested positive for Covid-19.

The mostly Swiss holidaymakers were on a folk music-themed cruise from Passau to Frankfurt between 10 and 17 October, aboard the Scylla AG operated MS Swiss Crystal.

The organisers, Hanspeter and Elsbeth Balsiger, who have both tested positive for Covid-19 since the cruise, said that protection measures were in place.

During the cruise, social distancing was enforced and masks had to be worn until passengers sat down for dinner or in the lounge. For excursions, a double-decker bus was hired instead of cars so people could spread out. Passengers were also temperature tested for fevers everyday.

But at dinner time, when masks were off, there was a brass band playing, singing and yodelling according to guests on board.

Following the cruise, around 60 of the 92 passengers on board tested positive for Covid-19, and all are now either in isolation or quarantine.

Virologist Andreas Cerny told local news outlet Blick that the superspreading event was no surprise given people “do not wear a mask while consuming and speak loudly with brass music and yodelling in the background.” Both of these have potential to create and spread droplets carrying coronavirus.

He added: “This river cruise should not have taken place. The planning was probably made in times when the number of cases was still low and then it was not adapted to the current situation of the rapidly increasing number of cases.” 

The Independent has contacted Scylla AG for additional comment.

It follows a cruise earlier this month where eight passengers tested positive for coronavirus.

The contained outbreak occurred onboard the Costa Diadema, which set off from Genoa on 28 September and finished its voyage on 12 October, before commencing a second sailing with many of the same passengers onboard.

On the first sailing, seven travellers tested positive for Covid-19 after excursions to the Greek islands, and had to self-isolate onboard before leaving the ship at Palermo on 10 October.

However, a new contact tracing technology being piloted by Costa identified another passenger who could be infected.

The 78-year-old man also tested positive for Covid-19.

The UK government currently advises against sea cruises but river cruises are exempt from the travel advisory.

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