- Sputnik International, 1920
Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.

CDC Investigating Over 70 Cruise Ships Due to COVID-19 Outbreaks on Board

© AP Photo / Lynne SladkyThe Celebrity Summit cruise ship prepares to depart from PortMiami, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Miami.
The Celebrity Summit cruise ship prepares to depart from PortMiami, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Miami.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.12.2021
Due to the COVID-19 surge, at least four ocean cruise ships were turned away from ports of call or were barred from allowing guests to disembark in the Americas this week. Luckily, this number, along with those ships with already recorded infection instances, represent only a small portion of the cruises in the area at any time this month.
As the Omicron variant surged over the Christmas weekend, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Monday that it was investigating over 70 cruise ships after reports of COVID-19 infections on board were made.
According to the updated table dividing cruise ships by color from those completely free from COVID-19 cases and those for which immediate public health measures are required, COVID-19 instances on 68 ships had met the CDC's threshold for investigation.
In the table, most of the ships from which cases of infection have been reported are the Carnival Corporation (40 vessels), on most of which the CDC began an investigation, while the Royal Caribbean Group ships represent the second-largest fleet affected by COVID-19 (33 vessels).
According to Reuters, shares of both Carnival and Royal Caribbean were down 1.9% and 2.3% in the early afternoon, respectively.
Last week, the Symphony of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas, both operated by Royal Caribbean, reported dozens of positive COVID-19 infections among their vaccinated crew and passengers. Early discovery, according to the cruise lines operating out of Florida ports, should limit the spread of the contagious sickness and allow other passengers to enjoy a normal trip, almost.
Carnival Freedom is in the harbor at George Town, Grand Cayman. It is one of Carnival's ships entering cruise service in 2007. It has a lot of balconies. The ship is 952 ft (290 m) long. It lists capacity of carries 2,900 passengers, which might be the meximum if extra capacity in cabins is used. I took this photo from the shore. - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.12.2021
Omicron COVID Strain
Carnival Freedom Cruise Becomes Third South Florida Vessel to Report a COVID-19 Outbreak This Week
Though there have been cases on other cruises since US-based ships resumed service this summer with vaccine requirements and other precautions in place to prevent outbreaks, the number of cruises forced to change their itineraries has increased, per US media reports.
The current delays in cruises are still a long way from March 2020, when the pandemic shut down the sector entirely and resulted in weeks of trying to send passengers and crew members home after ports closed to virus-affected ships.
To avoid a repeat of the spring 2020 situation, cruise lines enacted several onboard health and safety measures in compliance with the CDC Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships, which were revised as situations changed.
Vaccinations against the virus are now required for crew members and passengers. Before embarking on a cruise, most cruise lines require guests to test negative for COVID-19, and their crew must be tested on a regular basis.
Masks are also required to be worn in public areas on cruises departing from the US. This regulation was recently amended to require fully vaccinated travelers to wear indoor masks.
More to the Omicron-related disruptions, also on Monday, shares of US airlines and other travel-related firms continued to plummet as the virus and weather-related issues caused the cancellation of hundreds more flights, stranding travelers throughout the US during the holidays.
According to a separate Reuters report, over 800 flights were canceled inside, into, or out of the US on Monday. On top of that, almost 3,000 flights were reportedly canceled over the Christmas holiday weekend, which is traditionally a busy travel period for Americans.
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