SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): The Republic's pilot for safe cruises will continue as planned, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Thursday (Dec 10), adding that the response protocols to Covid-19 cases on board cruise ships are swift and effective.
The comments come after an elderly passenger on board Royal Caribbean International's Quantum of the Seas fell sick and tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the ship to return to Singapore on Wednesday, day three of a four-day voyage.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry (MOH) said that after three subsequent tests, the 83-year-old man did not have Covid-19.
The ministry said it will "support the laboratory on board the Quantum of the Seas in its review of its testing processes".
In a statement, STB described the response to the case as "swift and robust", adding that Covid-19 protocols were validated by the response.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said: "Safety remains our foremost priority, and yesterday's incident has given us valuable learnings for future sailings, such as the importance of using TraceTogether for effective contact tracing.
"It has also given assurance that our established response to any future Covid-19 case is swift and effective," he added.
"In particular, I would like to commend Royal Caribbean International and the terminal operator Sats-Creuers for the timely execution of their emergency protocols," said Mr Tan.
He also thanked Genting Cruise Lines, which supported the operations by embarking their passengers early to facilitate the disembarkation of Quantum of the Seas at the cruise centre on Wednesday, thus preventing intermingling between passengers and crew from the two ships.
"Their professionalism gives us confidence that our pilot cruises will continue to be safe and sustainable as we work with our partners and cruise lines to chart a new course for safe cruising," he added.
On the negative test result and the continuation of the pilot, Royal Caribbean said: "We welcome this news and we wish our guest a speedy return to health."
The cruise operator added: "We appreciate the guidance of the government and we will continue to work with them to refine our protocols, which are designed to protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the Singapore community."
Genting and Royal Caribbean were allowed to resume cruises in November and December respectively under the pilot scheme to reboot the cruise industry, which has been on pause since the pandemic broke out.
The ships must operate at a reduced capacity, among other safety measures. The "cruises to nowhere" allow passengers to take part in activities on board while out at sea for several days before returning to Singapore.
STB said many of the measures that are part of the pilot, such as pre-boarding and post-arrival testing,"go beyond Singapore's prevailing requirements for other settings or activities and provide greater assurance for safe cruising".
"The Government will continue to monitor the outcome of the pilot sailings in the coming months before deciding on the next steps for cruises," it added. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network