Cruise Line Viking Installs First COVID-19 PCR Lab at Sea
A cruise ship has been fitted with the world's first at-sea PCR laboratory to test passengers and crews for COVID-19 as cruise lines look for ways to safely resume voyages amid the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
The full-scale lab installed aboard Viking's luxury cruise ship Viking Star has capacity to perform daily non-invasive saliva tests for every passenger and crew member, the company said on Monday.
Viking's announcement comes days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a framework for a phased approach to resume cruise voyages, bringing an end to its no-sail order in place since March.
Stuck at a standstill after many vessels became COVID-19 hotbeds, the cruise industry has been working to develop new procedures and technologies that enable a safe return to cruising.
Matt Grimes, Vice President of Maritime Operations for Viking, said the company had been working to develop the PCR laboratory for a number of months, and that the lab moves Viking a step closer to resuming operations without compromising the passenger and crew safety.
"The recently announced CDC guidelines are clearly aligned with our public health research, and we welcome the agency’s push toward testing, as we believe this is the only way to safely operate," Grimes said. "In our view, continuous PCR testing, along with our extensive onboard hygiene protocols, will lead to making Viking ships a safe place to get away to and explore the world."
The laboratory will undergo a series of extensive tests to ensure the procedures are fully effective before it is demonstrated alongside new design and operating protocols when the 930-guest oceangoing vessel Viking Star comes to Oslo, Norway in mid-November, Viking said.
Viking, which temporarily suspended its river and ocean cruise operations from mid-March, announced in August that it would cancel all scheduled departures through year end.