WEDNESDAY, July 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ended its program to monitor COVID-19 cases on cruise ships, leaving the industry to manage infection risks aboard its vessels.

Cruise ships experienced some of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks as the pandemic began. The CDC had monitored cases for two years under the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships.

“[The] CDC has determined that the cruise industry has access to the necessary tools [e.g., cruise-specific recommendations and guidance, vaccinations, testing instruments, treatment modalities, and nonpharmaceutical interventions] to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 on board,” an agency spokesperson told CBS News. “Therefore, CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect as of today.”

The decision allows cruise lines to set their own COVID-19 policies. Some have already updated guidance for travel requirements, CBS News reported. Princess Cruises provided updated guidance on Monday, now encouraging vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers to vacation on the ships. The cruise line said it can now accommodate more unvaccinated guests on sailings “without burdensome exemptions or vaccine status justification.” Another cruise line, Royal Caribbean, said it is awaiting updated CDC guidance before it changes any COVID-19 protocols, CBS News reported.

The CDC noted that safety measures will likely vary among the different companies and urged travelers to communicate with cruise operators about COVID-19 policies. The CDC also said cruise travel continues to pose “some risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

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