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Australian cruise industry to restart within months

CANBERRA (XINHUA) – Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt has flagged a resumption of the cruise ship industry within months.

The federal government on Friday extended the human biosecurity period, under which international cruise ships capable of carrying more than 100 passengers have been banned from Australian waters since March 2020, until April 17.

However, Hunt said the restrictions on cruise ships could be lifted earlier if state and territory governments “ensure they are ready” with suitable safety protocols.

“It is an important sign of Australia returning to normal,” he told reporters on Friday afternoon.

“Work has advanced significantly with states and territories, it will be up to them to ensure they are ready, that they feel they are in a position to do this.

“We are simply in the position now of waiting for protocols to be agreed and developed by individual states and territories.”

The cruise ban was introduced after 2,700 passengers on board the Ruby Princess were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19, 2020, without being tested for coronavirus.

The ship was responsible for Australia’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the early months of the pandemic, accounting for more than 900 infections and 28 deaths.

Friday’s announcement from Hunt was welcomed by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) after the AUD5.2-billion (USD3.7-billion) industry expressed anger at being left out of the government’s decision to open the international border to tourists on February 21.

“We need governments to sign off on industry protocols as soon as possible so we can begin a careful and responsible revival of cruise tourism in Australia,” CLIA Managing Director Joel Katz said.

Australia yesterday morning reported more than 20,000 new coronavirus infections and 64 deaths – 32 in New South Wales, 19 in Victoria and 13 in Queensland.