Health experts warn the ship could pose a risk of an onboard COVID outbreak. Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict with Russia will receive housing, but not on dry land.
The 2004-built cruiseferry arrived in Leith on July 11th, being commissioned by the Scottish Government from the shipowner Tallink Group. The ferry has max passenger capacity 2500 (727 cabins with total 2172 beds) and prior to housing refugees operated on the Estonia-Sweden ferry route Tallinn-Mariehamn Aland-Stockholm (crossing time 15,5 hours).
According to Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, that was "a very risky move" as the number of COVID outbreaks that had occurred on ships was 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."
Pennington added that previous restrictions seen in Scotland, such as face coverings, vaccination checks, and testing, should be the "bare minimum" implemented to ensure safety. He warned that asymptomatic patients could transmit the virus without realizing that and called on the government not to house vulnerable people 65+ years of age.
Up to 10,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Scotland since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022. The Scottish Government announced that ~730 of them would live on Tallink Victoria.