MSC's Vago: Embrace Rapid Testing; Harmonize Protocols

MSC Grandiosa

Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman, today addressed tourism ministers from all the G20 Group of Nations and senior executives representing leading travel and tourism brands.

In his remarks Vago told business leaders to work with public authorities to embrace harmonized health protocols with rapid COVID-19 testing technologies to get business going again, he said.

“I am here today to talk about our experience of in August being the first major cruise line to restart operations in the Mediterranean, following the global halt to cruise operations by our entire industry in March due to the pandemic," Vago said. “We were able to restart thanks to the implementation of our comprehensive health and safety protocol, which received approval from all the relevant health authorities in our markets of operation."

He said the company's new protocols have nine key pillars:

1. Testing of guests
2. Testing of crew
3. Shore excursions (as bubbles)
4. Ventilation with HVAC
5. Contingency response
6. Isolation space on board and tracking and tracing
7. Masks
8. Physical distancing
9. And COVID-19 prevalence monitoring

“The core element of the protocol is our universal testing of ALL guests and crew before embarkation to create a sterile and safe bubble, which protects them throughout their time with us. We are now in the midst of our eighth sailing with a second vessel due to restart later this month with a longer itinerary, and we have safely carried 16,000 guests.

“Throughout, we have been rigorous in the implementation of our protocol and have had to deny embarkation to well over 100 guests for testing positive, travelling with someone who tested positive, not having the correct medical paperwork or for infractions of our protocol. Our data shows that in a pandemic where up to 80 percent of those infected in the current outbreak are mild or asymptomatic according to the latest WHO data, there can be no doubt that testing is the key.

“To conclude, my message to you all participating today is that thanks to our protocol and other similar ones, cruise ships could be considered possibly amongst the safest holidays anywhere in the world, and there is no reason why other forms of travel and holiday cannot be as safe. I hope that the data we have accrued, which I am sharing with you today, and the harmonisation of protocols across the entire transport, hospitality and tourism industry can be the way forward to work with authorities around the world as testing becomes more available.”

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