Tue. Oct 19th, 2021


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Norwegian Dawn cruise of the Norwegian Cruise Line leaves the Royal Naval Dockyard on July 16, 2013 near the port of Hamilton, Bermuda. REUTERS / Gary Cameron / Archive Photo

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The Norwegian cruise line argued on Friday with a federal judge that Florida had banned “vaccine passports” to obtain political points and said the company should be allowed to require evidence of COVID-19 shootings. of passengers when leaving the state. month.

The cruise line is scheduled for its first post-pandemic cruise from Miami on Aug. 15 and has promised health authorities that at least 95 percent of travelers will be vaccinated.

Those plans, however, clashed with the Florida ban announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading national figure against what he says has been a government reach in the fight against the pandemic.

Florida law prohibits companies, government entities, and schools from requiring COVID-19 immunity tests in exchange for a service. The law has some exceptions, such as for health care.

A Norwegian attorney told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams that lawmakers never intended to avoid discrimination or protect privacy.

“They want to add political points for a side in a furious debate over whether people should be vaccinated,” Derek Shaffer said.

The legal battle is taking place as large companies and some government entities are responding to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus with vaccination requirements, causing legal challenges for vaccine skeptics and civil libertarians.

The judge pressured a lawyer for the state to explain the problem facing Florida consumers that lawmakers were trying to solve. “We don’t want them to bring documentation about the vaccine to access the economic market,” said Pete Patterson, the state’s attorney.

SAILING

Williams, who was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, also questioned why lawmakers did not ban companies from firing on their workers. “

“It doesn’t seem strange to you that the statute doesn’t care about discriminating against state employees who are here in Florida, but that it focuses on the patterns of a company that, in this case, are sailing to other ports of call. ‘scale?’ she said.

Norwegian could receive a fine of up to $ 5,000 for each passenger denied boarding for failing to provide proof of immunity.

The law essentially codified an executive order signed in April by DeSantis, which strongly opposes COVID-19 restrictions, even when the Republican governor’s state has become a source of https: / infections /www.reuters.com/world/us/us- covid-19-houses-hit-six-high-over-100000-reuters-tally-2021-08-05 with hospitalizations at record levels.

Norwegian is accelerating the return to cruises, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closed in March 2020 with its “No Sail” order.

On Saturday, Norwegian will make its first post-pandemic sailing from a U.S. port with a cruise through Alaska from Seattle.

To navigate, Norwegian has certified that the CDC would confirm that passengers have been vaccinated.

“Our 100% immunization policy, along with pre-guest testing and routine crew testing, is in place smoothly in the nearly 500 ports we sail to and from the world, except Florida ports.” , said Frank Del, CEO of the Rio company said in a earnings call Friday.

The company said Friday that it is seeing a cumulative demand for cruises for 2022.

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