As the Omnicron variant continues to spread throughout the world, Brazil’s health agency ANVISA warned people on Sunday, Jan. 2, not to board cruise ships on its coasts due to the recent COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked during their New Year’s celebration.

Luxury cruise ship MSC Splendida found itself facing the brunt of this recent outbreak, with the ship and its crew being quarantined on Sunday after it was found to have 80 confirmed positive cases from its crew and passengers by the time they docked after New Year’s day, the Daily Beast reported.

Three other cruise ships docked at Brazilian coasts–MSC Preziosa, Costa Fascinosa, and MSC Seaside–are also under quarantine, with ANVISA suspending the operation of cruise ships across the country due to this spread, according to Reuters.

“In view of recent events, [ANVISA] does not recommend the embarkation of passengers who have trips scheduled on cruise ships for the next few days,” a statement from the agency said. “This recommendation takes into account the rapid change in the epidemiological scenario, the risk to the health of passengers, and the unpredictability of operations at this time.”

Businessman Juliana Ribeiro, who was aboard the MSC Splendida during its COVID outbreak, said that he believes that the ship knew by Dec. 28 that it had an outbreak on its hands, though it did not halt regular operations even as 14 people were confirmed positive.

“We were ported in Balneário Camboriú [on the 28th], and we knew something was going on because we saw people in [Hazmat suits] walking around,” Ribeiro said. “When we went back to Port of Santos they made an announcement that 14 people were infected. But the activities on the ship kept going as if nothing was happening.”

The information about the outbreak on the ship was reportedly being kept quiet, with the crew refusing to share positive infection cases as well as censoring information regarding the case.

“We would just see it on the TV later. At times, the news channels stopped being broadcast on the [ship’s] TVs,” Ribeiro said. “Passengers would send clips to news outlets through their phones because they cut out all outside news in the ship.”

MSC Cruises has said that their protocol regarding COVID-19 was followed during the outbreak, with the supposed “limited number of cases” being properly isolated in a separate area of the ship.

As a COVID-19 outbreak exploded after the New Year's Eve celebrations of a cruise ship in Brazil, health agency ANVISA has temporarily halted cruise operations in the country. This is a representational image. Georgy Trofimov/Unsplash.

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