Florida cannot ban cruise ship ‘passport to vaccines’

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A US judge cleared Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH.N) to require passengers to present written proof of coronavirus vaccination before boarding a ship, dealing a blow to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to ban “vaccine passports.”

In a preliminary ruling on Sunday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams in Miami said Norwegian would likely prevail over her argument that DeSantis ‘May’ ban on ‘vaccine passport’ puts health at risk public and constitutes an unconstitutional violation of Norwegian’s rights. .

The judge barred DeSantis from enforcing the law against Norwegian, allowing the cruise ship operator to pursue a plan to resume port activity in Miami on August 15. million dollars per cruise.

Raymond Treadwill, a lawyer for DeSantis, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The move comes as large corporations and some government entities respond to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus with vaccination requirements, which has sparked legal challenges from vaccine skeptics and civil liberties advocates. .

“We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the company’s motion for a preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with guests. and a 100% vaccinated crew, ”the company’s executive vice president Daniel S. Farkas said in the statement.

Norwegian said Florida law would prevent the company from ensuring that at least 95% of passengers are vaccinated so that it can comply with health regulations on its first post-pandemic trip from Miami on August 15.

DeSantis has become a national figure to oppose pandemic restrictions, even as the Republican governor’s state has become a hotbed of infections and hospitalizations have reached record levels.

He argued that Florida law prevents discrimination and protects privacy by preventing businesses, schools or governments from requiring proof of immunity in exchange for services.

Norwegian said the law was not meant to protect passengers but to score political points.

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

To navigate, Norwegian has attested to the CDC that it will confirm that at least 95% of passengers have been vaccinated.

Norwegian said the law violates the company’s First Amendment right to interact with customers and does not prevent discrimination because the company would have to separate and mask passengers who refused to prove they were vaccinated .

The state argued that Norwegian could have chosen, as rival cruise lines have done, to seek CDC approval through a process of performing simulated trips and enforcing other COVID-19 protocols such as masking inside.

(Reuters – Reporting by Tom Hals, additional reporting by Aakriti Bhalla; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Jonathan Oatis, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Diane Craft)


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