Norwegian Cruise tells Florida judge that ‘vaccine passport’ ban is political
Aug 6 (Reuters) – Norwegian Cruise Line argued before a federal judge on Friday that Florida had banned “vaccine passports” to score political points and said the company should be allowed to demand proof of COVID shots. 19 passengers when it leaves the state this month.
The cruise line is scheduled for its first post-pandemic cruise leaving Miami on August 15 and has pledged with health authorities that at least 95% of travelers will be vaccinated.
These plans, however, collided with the Florida ban which was touted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading national figure against what he says is too much of the government‘s reach in tackling the pandemic.
Florida law prohibits businesses, government entities, and schools from requiring proof of COVID-19 immunity in exchange for a service. The law provides for certain exceptions, such as for health care.
A Norwegian lawyer told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams that lawmakers never intended to prevent discrimination or protect privacy.
“They want to score political points for one side in a raging debate over whether people should be vaccinated,” Derek Shaffer said.
The legal battle 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 freedoms advocates. civilians. Read more
The judge urged a state attorney to explain the problem Florida consumers face and lawmakers are trying to address. “We don’t want them carrying vaccine documents to get into the economic market,” said Pete Patterson, the state’s attorney.
Williams, who was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, also asked why lawmakers haven’t banned companies from shooting their workers. “
“Don’t you think it is strange that the law does not concern itself with the discrimination of state employees who are here in Florida but focuses on the bosses of a company, who in this case are sailing to other ports of call? ” she said.
Norwegian could be fined 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 is firmly opposed to COVID-19 restrictions, even as the Republican governor’s state has become a hotbed of infections with hospitalizations at record levels.
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.
Norwegian will make its first post-pandemic navigation from a U.S. port on Saturday with an Alaska cruise from Seattle.
To navigate, Norwegian attested to the CDC that it would confirm the passengers were vaccinated.
“Our 100% vaccination policy, coupled with pre-board guest testing and routine crew testing, is in place smoothly in the nearly 500 ports to and from the world, with the exception of Florida ports, ”said Frank Del, CEO of the company. Rio said Friday on a call for results.
The company said on Friday it was seeing pent-up demand for the 2022 cruises. Read more
Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware Additional reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru Editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Holmes
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