ATHENS, Greece – On Monday, Greek authorities said 12 crew members of a Maltese-flagged cruise ship on a Greek island tour with more than 1,500 people on board had tested positive for the coronavirus and have been isolated on board The Mein Schiff 6, operated by TUI Cruises.

But by Tuesday afternoon, all 12 crew had tested negative three times — with a PCR test administered by the cruise line and again with a rapid antigen test conducted by Greek authorities and once more with a PCR test given by Greek authorities– indicating that the negative test may have been a false positive.

The cruise line called the situation a “false alarm” and said there are not any cases of COVID-19 on board Mein Schiff 6, as confirmed by Greek Authorities Tuesday, the line said in a release provided by Godja Sönnichsen, director of communications for TUI.

“The handling of the unclear test results of crew members reported yesterday now once again confirms the processes agreed with the authorities for the resumption of the cruise business and proves that cruises are possible in times of Corona,” TUI continued. 

The Mein Schiff 6 began its trip in Heraklion on the southern Greek island of Crete on Sunday night, with 922 passengers and 666 crew members on board, Greece’s Shipping Ministry said Monday. It’s due to sail to Piraeus, the country’s main port near the Greek capital, Athens, and later to the western island of Corfu.

Sönnichsen added that all crew members are tested before they board and go into a 14-day-self-isolation on board before they can work.

The passengers had undergone coronavirus tests before boarding and were not part of the sample testing.

“In the course of the early warning system, the crew on board is furthermore regularly tested for COVID-19,” Sönnichsen said. Sample tests for the coronavirus were carried out on 150 of the crew members, the ministry said, and 12 of them were found to be positive. The test was a PCR test, Sönnichsen said, but it’s unclear why there was such a high rate of false positives. “None of the 12 crew members has any symptoms.”

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Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, senior faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing, wrote that the rate of false-negative molecular tests (PCR) ranges from 2% to 37%. But false positives are more rare, and are likely in 5% of cases or less. 

“Thanks to the extensive hygiene measures and clearance rules on board, there is no reason for guests and crew to worry,” Sönnichsen said.

No passengers were impacted and as a result, and none were subject to additional testing, according to a release shared by Sabine Lueke, communications manager for TUI, Tuesday. 

“I would like to thank all the responsible authorities for their good and professional cooperation in connection with the unclear test results on board Mein Schiff 6, and I am pleased that the voyage can be continued for all guests tomorrow with shore excursions in Piraeus,” Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises, said in the release. 

TUI Cruises is based in Germany and is a joint venture between German tourism company TUI Group and Royal Caribbean Group. 

Contributing: Julia Thompson, USA TODAY; Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, The Associated Press

Pictured here is TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3, which has minor differences compared to the Mein Schiff 6.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘False alarm’: TUI cruise crew negative for COVID-19 with three tests



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