MS Victoria cruise ship housing Ukrainian refugees lead to ‘Covid outbreak’ risk

A huge cruise ship docked in Edinburgh to welcome 700 Ukrainian refugees could pose a risk of a Covid outbreak on board, health experts have warned.

Hundreds of refugees fleeing the conflict with Russia will soon receive housing, but it will not be on the mainland. The huge cruise ship arrived in Leyte on July 13 before welcoming hundreds of Ukrainians on board.

MS Victoria was commissioned by the Scottish Government and can accommodate up to 2,500 passengers and has over 700 cabins. Before the ship’s last job, the ship sailed the Baltic Sea on pleasure trips.

However, The Scottish Sun reports that around 700 people crammed onto the ship could pose a risk of a Covid outbreak, similar to the situation before the start of the pandemic where dozens of ships floated off the Scottish coast to quarantine the passengers.

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said: “It’s a very risky move. The number of Covid outbreaks that have occurred on ships is very high.

“I would say there’s a real risk that if Covid gets into that ship and there’s a fairly large number of people on board, you might have quite a big outbreak. It’s not just an issue of being on a passenger ship, it’s the close proximity people have. The ventilation system on the ship may have something to do with it as well.

“Somebody might be in a confined space but breathing out and the air gets round. You can’t really ask people to sit there with the doors all closed. I think they are running a very real risk.”

Professor Pennington said previous restrictions have seen in Scotland, such as vaccination checks, face coverings, and testing, should be the “minimum” put in place to ensure passenger safety.

He also warned that asymptomatic patients can inadvertently transmit the virus and called on the government not to house vulnerable people over 65.

He added: “I suppose the main problem is that you’ve got these people that you’ve got to put somewhere. I think they’d be bloody lucky to avoid having the outbreak on the ship with Omicron as it is and Scotland being the number one in the UK in terms of infections.”

Up to 10,000 Ukrainians are believed to have arrived in Scotland since the Russian invasion in February. The Scottish government recently announced that around 730 of them would live on board MS Victoria after scrapping its flagship “super sponsor scheme”.