An 83-year-old passenger of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas was tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the cruise ship to return to Singapore on Wednesday (9 December).
The ship was originally set for a four-day cruise to nowhere. However, the journey was cut short after the passenger was tested positive for the coronavirus on day three.
All the guests and crew on the ship who had close contact with the guest had been isolated, and their test results all came out negative.
The ship’s captain confirmed this via an announcement around 8.10 am on Wednesday 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,” the captain said.
He had previously informed all passengers at around 2.45 am that the ship would be returning early. He also instructed all guests to stay in their cabins.
Cruise director at the Singapore Tourism Board Annie Chang said: “A passenger onboard Royal Caribbean’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”.
She added that all of the relevant passenger’s close contacts have tested negative.
“The ship is returning to Singapore so that passengers can disembark and medical support provided if necessary. All passengers undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test prior to boarding, with stringent hygiene and safety measures implemented throughout their passenger journey,” Ms Chang said.
Passengers who did not have any close contact with the COVID-19 patient will be allowed to leave the ship, a report by Mothership.sg stated.
As part of the safety protocol in this pandemic, all passengers who are embarking on Dream Cruises’ round-trip with no ports of call are required to take an antigen rapid test at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.
Touching on the patient, Ms Chang said that the man took a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test before boarding and tested negative for the virus.
However, the 83-year-old man reported to the onboard medical centre with diarrhoea and underwent a mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test as part of the onboard protocols.
The patient was immediately isolated. His initial close contacts were also identified and isolated as part of the protocols for a positive test during a cruise.
While the passenger’s close contacts have since been tested negative for COVID-19, further contact tracing is ongoing.
The Quantum of the Seas can serve about 2,000 guests at full capacity during the pandemic, half of its usual of over 4,000 passengers.
During this pandemic, the safety measures include reducing passenger capacity to 50 per cent and pre-boarding testing for all guests.
Additionally, mask-wearing is compulsory and passengers must have the TraceTogether mobile application or token on their person at all times.
Netizens question need to travel during the pandemic
Upon learning about this news, online users slammed the passengers for deciding to travel during this pandemic.
They added that the passengers have taken COVID-19 lightly and will now have to pay the consequences.
Others pointed out that the Government should have not rushed to resume any kind of travelling so soon without considering potential repercussions.
One user slammed the Government for making a rash decision without thinking much about it.
“Reality around the world had always shown how stupid it is to start any travelling nowadays. Till the population have been vaccinated.. stop all travels. Stop all foreign imports unless they are Singaporean coming home. Stop people from those countries with high infections coming into SG!” They wrote.
Some cited the previous incident of Japan’s Diamond Princess cruise in February this year, where over 700 passengers onboard were tested positive for the coronavirus.
Online users said that Singaporeans did not learn the lessons from that incident, and questioned why permission was granted for Royal Caribbean in the first place.
A number of users wondered if the COVID-19 SOPs and tests are effective, given that the patient initially tested negative before boarding the ship.