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Greece’s cruise ship comeback cut short by COVID-19 outbreak

WATCH: Canada's chief public health officer made a blunt recommendation on cruise ship travel in early March, saying Canadians should avoid it since the virus can spread so quickly on board. Alexa MacLean has more – Mar 9, 2020

Cruise ships have returned to Greece — and so have the on-ship COVID-19 outbreaks.

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More than 1,500 people have been isolated onboard a Maltese-flagged cruise ship in Greece after 12 crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Mein Schiff 6, which is run by TUI Cruises, was moored off Milos in the Aegean Sea after the positive test results Monday, according to Greek authorities.

The cruise was the first of its kind to visit Greek waters since March, when the country went into lockdown. The global cruise industry also shut down around that time after a flurry of high-profile outbreaks on ships.

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The Mein Schiff 6 left Herkalion on Sunday night with 922 passengers and 666 crew members on board, according to Greece’s Shipping Ministry.

The ship had been slated to visit Piraeus, near Athens, before heading to the island of Corfu.

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Twelve people tested positive for COVID-19 during a sample test of 150 crew members, officials said. All 12 were asymptomatic with a “low viral load,” Greece’s National Public Health Organization said.

The 12 infected crew have been isolated and the ship is expected to head on to Piraeus for additional testing on Tuesday.

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Cruise ships were hit hard by the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, before the disease gained a foothold in countries around the world.

Ships proved to be floating Petri dishes for the virus, with a few cases quickly ballooning into dozens over the course of several days in lockdown.

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Health officials around the world, including those in Canada, have warned people for months about the heightened risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships.

The Canadian government urges all citizens to avoid travel on cruise ships outside of Canada until further notice.

“Cruise ship outbreaks of COVID-19 indicate that a large number of individuals onboard can become infected,” the government’s guidelines say.

“If an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs on your cruise ship while you’re outside of Canada, our ability to help may be limited.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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