Cruise ship passenger tests Covid-19 positive - ship returns to Singapore

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas arrived in Singapore on Dec 9, 2020. - ST

ONBOARD QUANTUM OF THE SEA (The Straits Times/ANN): Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas arrived in Singapore on Wednesday (Dec 9) after turning back on day three of a four-day cruise to nowhere due to a confirmed Covid-19 case on board.

The ship has isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with the guest. All of them tested negative for the coronavirus.

The ship’s captain confirmed this via an announcement at about 8.10am when the ship arrived in Singapore.

"It's important that you know that you are safe on board and we have a good plan in place to maintain your health, safety and comfort," he said.

He had previously informed guests at about 2.45am that the ship would be returning early. He had also instructed all guests to remain in their cabins.

Annie Chang, director of cruise at the Singapore Tourism Board, said: "A passenger on board Royal Carribean’s Quantum of the Seas has tested positive for Covid-19 and has been immediately isolated. Emergency response plans have been activated according to guidelines including immediate isolation of close contacts, contact tracing and deep-cleaning of the ship.

"All close contacts have tested negative. The ship is returning to Singapore so that passengers can disembark and medical support provided if necessary."

She added that all passengers had undergone a mandatory Covid-19 test prior to boarding, and stringent hygiene and safety measures were implemented throughout their journey.

Royal Caribbean last week resumed three- and four-night Ocean Getaway cruises as part of a safe cruising pilot programme announced in October by the Singapore Tourism Board.

The Quantum of the Seas can serve approximately 2,000 guests at full capacity during the pandemic, half of its usual of over 4,000 passengers. -

In a health advisory issued to cruise passengers, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the Covid-19 case's contacts will be placed on quarantine or health surveillance. Other people on the ship will be required to monitor their health for 14 days from the date of disembarkation and undergo a swab test at the end of the monitoring period.

"During this period, you may continue with your usual activities including going to work or school," the MOH said.

Royal Caribbean will contact passengers from a week after disembarkation with the details of their swab appointment at a designated government swab site, and MOH said it will bear the cost of those tests.

Angie Stephen, managing director for Asia-Pacific at Royal Caribbean International, said the ship is finalising the contact tracing process then it will get clearance from the MOH to debark guests.

"Those who are not close contacts of the confirmed case will be allowed to debark and take a rapid antigen test as per original procedure. They can then go home and will be advised to monitor their health for the next 14 days. After that, all guests will take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test with the expense borne by Royal Caribbean," she added.

The guest who tested positive for Covid-19 and other people in the travelling party will get a full refund. All other guests will be refunded the value of one day of the cruise price.

The Quantum of the Seas has a hospital on board, complete with a PCR testing laboratory and intensive care units equipped with ventilators, where Covid-19 cases can be isolated and treated.

Pandemic safety measures include pre-boarding testing for passengers. Mask wearing is mandatory and passengers must have the Trace Together mobile application or token on their person at all times.

Meanwhile, passengers of Genting Cruise Lines' World Dream were told early Tuesday that they will be allowed to disembark as scheduled the same day. The vessel, with capacity halved to 1,700, has arrived in Singapore after a three-night cruise to nowhere.

It is slated to leave later Tuesday for another three-night cruise.

The ship's safety regime includes a new real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine on board that yields Covid-19 test results in 60 minutes. PCR tests are the most accurate ones for Covid-19 available.

There are also protocols to turn the 19-deck ship around in an outbreak. Sailing in the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea, the World Dream can return to Singapore shores in less than six hours, Genting Cruise Lines previously said. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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