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Coronavirus: Norwegian cruise line suspends activity after new outbreak

More than 40 passengers and crew have tested positive for coronavirus after a cruise on the Norwegian coast. But there are fears that some disembarking passengers may have spread the virus on land.

More than 40 passengers and crew aboard the MS Roald Amundsen cruise liner have tested positive for coronavirus after a trip along the Norwegian coast. The cruise ship often operates as a ferry along western Norway's various ports, prompting fears that disembarking passengers may have unwittingly spread the virus on land.

Read more: Coronavirus fallout: Cruising into the unknown

Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise ship and ferry line, announced Monday that it would suspend all cruise ship activity after the outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the MS Roald Amundsen. At least 41 people were diagnosed with coronavirus have been admitted to a hospital in Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle, where the ship is now docked.

Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam apologized for the situation, saying, "A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures." Skjeldam added:

"We have made mistakes. On behalf of all of us at Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take full responsibility."

Fears of spread along the Norwegian coast

Hurtigruten was one of the first cruise lines to resume business after the industry was quickly shut down in March. Adding to the complication of the situation is the fact that the line also operates as a ferry, thus there are fears that as many as 69 communities along Norway's western coast could eventually be affected.

Read more: Can the cruise ship industry keep coronavirus at arm's length?

Norway's public health institute confirmed that it had been in contact with health officials in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Latvia and the Philippines. It is unclear how the spread started and Hurtigruten has contacted the 387 passengers that had been on the MS Roald Amundsen from July 17-24, as well as from July 25-31. All crew on both cruises have tested negative. 

Norwegian Health Minister Bent Hoie announced at a press conference Monday that vessels carrying more than 100 people will not be allowed to stop or disembark passengers in Norwegian ports for at least two weeks. The move will not apply to smaller passenger vessels or ferries.

js/stb (AP, dpa, Reuters)