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German cruise ship tests water during pandemic

A German cruise ship is testing the water amid the coronavirus pandemic and set sail for the first time since the industry was shut down months ago.

The TUI cruise ship Mein Schiff 2 – literally ‘My Ship 2’ – left for a weekend cruise on the North Sea late on Friday evening, news agency dpa reported.

The ship uses strict precautions to keep passengers and crew as safe as possible. The occupancy rate was limited to 60%, so passengers could keep their distance, although that level was not reached.

The ship departed with 1,200 passengers on board compared to the normal 2,900 capacity. No matter how many crew members were on board, it was not reported.

The ship sailed from the northern port of Hamburg to Norway and passengers will spend the weekend at sea with no land stops before returning to Germany on Monday.

On board, passengers and crew must remain 1.5 meters (5 ft) apart or wear protective masks and cannot operate themselves at the ship’s buffet.

All passengers also had to complete a health questionnaire before boarding and their temperature was measured.

After months of shutdown, German cruise companies hope that shorter, tightly controlled voyages can get the company wrecked by the pandemic back on track.

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The cruise ship industry was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic (dpa via AP)

From August 5, the AIDA cruise line will sail from Hamburg on its maiden voyage since the pandemic ended months ago, with a second departure on August 12 from Rostock and a third departure on August 16 from Kiel, dpa reported.

Germany is widely acclaimed for its efforts to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

It reported more than 206,000 infections, but kept the death toll at 9,124 – just one-fifth of the death toll in Britain.

Germany is now reopening its economy, with strict guidelines for social distance, mask use and personal hygiene measures.

U.S. health officials last week extended the U.S. cruise ship ban to the end of September, as coronavirus infections are on the rise in most U.S. states, including Florida, a popular departure point for cruises in the Caribbean.

The chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, said in the order that the cruise industry has not yet controlled the transmission of the virus to its ships.

Dozens of coronavirus outbreaks have affected cruise ships, including the much-publicized Diamond Princess outbreak from Japan, which has seen 712 infections and 13 deaths.