HONG KONG (China Daily/Asia News Network): Hong Kong authorities prevented a Royal Caribbean cruise ship from departing the city's terminal late on Thursday (Oct 21) as a crew member was suspected to have Covid-19 after routine testing, the government and the cruise operator said.
The Spectrum of the Seas ship was scheduled to begin a "cruise to nowhere" journey in nearby waters, restricted to half capacity and only for fully vaccinated residents who tested negative for the virus 48 hours prior to the trip.
About 1,000 passengers out of a total of 1,200 had already boarded the ship before the four-night trip was canceled. All have to undergo compulsory testing but were allowed to leave the ship as they did not have direct contact with the crew member.
"In a routine Covid-19 test on crew members today, we identified one crew member who tested indeterminate. Following secondary sample testing, the test resulted preliminary positive for Covid-19," Royal Caribbean said in a statement on Facebook.
The 40-year-old crew member tested positive for Covid-19 in Malaysia in July and then tested negative for more than 10 times since returning to Hong Kong in August. He was fully vaccinated with the mainland-made Sinovac vaccine.
His latest sample was collected on Oct 19 and had a "very low viral load", the Centre for Health Protection said in a statement, adding he was asymptomatic and the decision to hold the ship was "a prudent measure".
Hong Kong has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world and is virtually Covid-19 free. The financial hub reported two new imported cases on Friday, bringing the overall tally to 12,314.
Both cases involved a L452R mutant strain, the CHP said in a separate statement.
One of them — a 43-year-old foreign domestic helpter — arrived in Hong Kong on Oct 18 from the Philippines, which had been designated as a "high-risk" place by the Hong Kong government. She has tested positive at the designated quarantine facility at Penny's Bay.
Another case involved a 31-year-old woman who had flown in from the Maldives on Qatar Airways flight QR818 via Doha. She is a close contact of an imported case confirmed previously, the CHP said.
Both new patients had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the CHP added.