The Italian government has given permission to its cruise industry to start sailing again in Mediterranean waters, after several months of lockdown, in a bid to boost its economy.
The announcement was made on Friday by the country’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, who said that Italy will reopen its borders for cruise ships as of August 15.
Over the weekend, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), a privately owned company based in Geneva, said it will have two departures from Italian ports this month, starting from August 16.
The company, which was the first global operator to announce the resumption of its operations after the Coronavirus outbreak paralysed all travelling, is planning to conduct a swab test of every passenger just before boarding, and those found positive, or show symptoms of illness, will be denied boarding.
Similarly, Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival Corporation, announced on Tuesday that it was planning to resume its trips from Italian ports in early September, with its ships operating under the so-called “Costa Safety Protocol,” meaning the new regulations developed in line with Italian and EU health guidelines.
According to numbers published by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Italy’s cruise industry is worth of up to €14.5 billion and supports almost 53,000 jobs, being Europe’s largest industry.
In case cruise operations across Europe remained suspended throughout August, CLIA has predicted an economic loss of around €25.5 billion.
The return of the cruising industry comes at a rather challenging moment, as several European states are reporting an alarming surge in COVID-19 infections, and amid growing concerns over the safety of cruising ships, with hundreds of cases recorded on multiple ships.