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Cruise ships set to return to Australian ports as COVID restrictions fade

Cruise ship Australia
The Pacific Explorer is the first cruise liner to visit Australia since March 2020. Photo: AAP
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In another milestone on the journey to post-COVID normal, cruise ships will soon be visiting Australian ports once again.

Authorities are lifting a ban that’s been in place since the coronavirus pandemic swept into Australia in March 2020.

NSW, Victoria and Queensland have outlined testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew in preparation for the ships to return.

However, Tasmania is still reviewing whether such a move is safe for the island state.

Peak body Cruise Lines International Association Australia says the lifting of the ban will be marked by “a carefully managed resumption of operations” in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 jobs.

Return of the fleet

The first international cruise ship to return, P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer, will sail into Sydney Harbour on Monday morning in readiness for its return to service on May 31.

It will be followed at the end of the month by Ponant’s Le Laperouse, which will begin operations between Darwin and Broome on April 28, joining local operators in time for the important Kimberley season.

The move comes despite COVID-19 infections remaining stubbornly high.

NSW reported almost 10,000 new cases on Sunday, along with six-virus-related deaths. Victoria added 8153 infections to its caseload and two fatalities.

More than 41,000 new cases and 35 deaths were reported across the nation on Saturday, while net hospital admissions were up two dozen patients and seven more were admitted to intensive care.

Monitoring the latest variant

Elsewhere, Health Victoria is monitoring the new BA.4 or BA.5 Omicron variant after samples were confirmed in a catchment at Tullamarine, north of Melbourne.

The sub-variant has been recently detected in a small number of cases in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The World Health Organisation says there are no known significant epidemiological differences between the new Omicron strain and the more dominant BA.2 strain.

“There is no cause for alarm with the emergence of the new sub-variants,” WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said this week.

“We are not yet observing a major spike in cases, hospitalisations or deaths.”

COVID-19 DATA FROM ACROSS AUSTRALIA:

  • NSW: 9725 cases, six deaths, 1527 in hospital, 64 in ICU
  • Victoria: 8153 cases, two deaths, 401 in hospital, 25 in ICU