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Ponant’s newest ship, Le Jacques Cartier, is heading back to Marseille after confirming 13 positive cases of COVID-19 onboard.

The luxury ship is carrying 72, mostly French passengers, and was refused entry to Sicily.

She is expected to return to Marseille at 8am Monday local time following the suspension of her itinerary.

Ponant has sailed 60 cruises with 3,500 passengers so far, and has been incident free.

The vessel is the latest to have sailings curtailed as Europe suffers its worst numbers in months.

German line AIDA Cruises, part of Carnival, has announced it is suspending operations for November because of a surge in German numbers.

Since its restart on Oct. 17, no cases of COVID-19 have emerged among passengers or crew on board, who are tested before embarking.

Costa, another Carnival line, had been offering itineraries in Italy and recently had a cluster on board.  But it does not intend to cease sailing.

It has, however, adjusted schedules “in light of the current epidemiological situation.”

The Ponant cruise departed on October 25 from Valetta, Malta and was scheduled to end at Piraeus, Greece today, November 2.

On the night of departure, two cases were confirmed among the crew and ship-wide rapid PCR tests the following day revealed 11 more positive cases.

Passengers and crew who have been confirmed as having the virus have been isolated in their cabins under medical care.

Upon arrival to Marseille, passengers will disembark under the control of local and national health authorities.

In a statement, Ponant has said: “Ponant has successfully operated more than 60 cruises and carried 3,500 passengers. The company has continuously optimised the control of risks related to the Covid-19: this system has been continuously operated, tested and improved”.

Ponant also said no major evolution or critical symptoms have been reported during the last 48 hours.

As part of the ‘Sail with Confidence’ COVID safe protocol, the line requires all guests to submit a negative COVID-19 test result as well as two medical questionnaires completed and signed off by the passengers personal doctor and Ponant medical team prior to granting boarding onto the ship.

On board Le Jacques Cartier, the state-of-the-art medical infrastructure, consisting of PCR (human and surface) testing equipment, radiology, biology and even intensive care beds, goes beyond current tourism industry standards. The medical team, consisting of a doctor and a nurse, available 24/7, is currently mobilised to manage the current situation in the best health conditions, in accordance with the protocol.

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