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Covid vaccination mandates and mask rules will finally be ditched for passengers on cruise ships embarking from NSW ports, with Premier Chris Minns declaring: “We need to get life back to normal.”

Previously, passengers over the age of 12 had to be fully vaccinated prior to embarking on a cruise ship. Travellers also had to abide by enforced mask-wearing when embarking and disembarking and had to present a negative Covid test prior to departure.

On Monday, the NSW government announced it had formally signed paperwork that removed the rules from the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols, which also covers travellers embarking from Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

Mr Minns said it was time to “get life back to normal”.

“We have scrapped these rules because they aren’t needed anymore,” he said.

“Passengers can take their own decisions to look after their health before and during a cruise.”

Tourism Minister John Graham thanked the industry for implementing the health protocols during the pandemic and welcomed the change before the summer holiday season.

“The 2023 winter cruise season in Sydney is on track to be one of the strongest on record and it is fantastic even more people can now participate,” he said.

“These protocols were important after Covid but were not intended to continue in perpetuity and I thank the sector for how they have handled the additional requirements placed upon them.”

While the remaining states have yet to formally rescind the rules, the federal health body has advocated for the removal of the Covid public health measures.

On Friday, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee downgraded managing Covid-19 on cruise ships to bring measures in line with other communicable diseases and stated there was “no longer a need” for specific recommendations and guidance.

However, it said cruise ships remained a “higher risk setting for communicable disease,” like gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, the flu and Covid-19.

“These viral infections can be serious, particularly for people who are at higher risk of severe illness,” the statement said.

“The risk is higher on-board cruise ships than in the general community due to the high numbers of people mixing in relatively closed spaces and the typically longer duration of cruises compared to other transport.”

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By Rahul

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