Royal Caribbean cruise passengers disembark from ship where man tested positive for COVID-19
SINGAPORE: Passengers on board the Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise, where a man tested positive for COVID-19, were allowed to disembark from the ship about 12 hours after docking on Wednesday morning (Dec 9).
The ship docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore at 8am, a day ahead of schedule, after an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for the coronavirus.
CNA observed passengers leaving the ship via an enclosed gangway shortly before 8pm. They were told that the process of disembarking would take place in batches.
Among the first to disembark were Mr Leon Chen, 31, and Ms Lim Jiayee, 30.
The process was "quite easy", said Ms Lim, adding that passengers were guided through by staff members.
From clearing immigration to taking the COVID-19 antigen test, the whole process took about 10 to 15 minutes, she said. Results of the test were expected in an hour.
Passengers have to take another polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test after 14 days, said Mr Chen.
According to Mr Chen, the captain told passengers at 2.45am that the ship would be turning back ahead of schedule, and the announcement about the man who tested positive was made after docking at about 8am.
Passengers had to wear "tracer wristbands" and keep the TraceTogether contact tracing tool on.
"They kept us updated every four hours, and even on board before the situation they had a lot of safety distancing measures in place to keep track of all of us," Mr Chen told CNA.
Ms Lim added that she was "quite panicked" after the announcement but the cruise operator handled the situation "very well".
"It’s just our luck that we happen to have it on our ship," said Ms Siti, who was on the cruise with her husband and daughter.
The family said before going on the cruise on Monday, they took their COVID-19 test on Friday or Saturday.
"So I guess those who went on a Friday, they have another two more days to be mingling around outside. So there might be a lapse there but I think Royal Caribbean can improve on that," said Mr Reyaz Hamzah, 44, the husband of Ms Siti.
"No regrets about this trip. It’s just a one-off case."
Travel writer Heidi Sarna said there was a bit of a bottleneck along the hallway of the vessel, but that the crew were on hand to manage potential crowding.
The 54-year-old said she and her friend were first alerted at 7.45pm to leave their cabin but were later told to return to wait another 30 minutes.
"Of course it’s a relief,” Ms Sarna said after disembarking, adding that she was happy to be able to get off the vessel on the day of docking.
A passenger who was among the last batch of people to leave the ship at about 9.30pm said there was no safe distancing at one point.
"When they came and knocked on our rooms and asked us to proceed to the gangway, (there were) a lot of people, we were so surprised," Mdm Adeline Tan told CNA. "When I see this situation, I got a bit of a shock."
She added that there was a "jam" at the corridor and the lift, but that the situation was okay after that.
Three buses were seen arriving at the cruise centre at about 9pm. They were meant to ferry close contacts of the man who tested positive, according to traffic controllers.
In an earlier update, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said that the remaining passengers and crew members would remain on the ship until contact tracing was completed, as part of existing infection control protocols.
STB also said they would have to remain on the ship until Genting Cruise Line's World Dream cruise completed embarking all passengers for its next sailing. This was to prevent any intermingling between passengers and crew members from both ships.
World Dream arrived at Marina Bay Cruise Centre on Wednesday morning and left at about 6.20pm.
PASSENGERS TO MONITOR HEALTH, TAKE SWAB TEST
The passenger who tested positive for COVID-19 was swabbed after reporting to the ship's medical centre with diarrhoea.
In an update on Wednesday night, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that his original test sample was re-tested at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) and came back negative for COVID-19 infection.
"A second fresh sample tested by NPHL has also come back negative. NPHL will conduct another test tomorrow to confirm his COVID-19 status," the ministry added.
All his identified close contacts have been isolated as a precautionary measure, said MOH.
Quantum of the Seas set sail on Monday and was sailing as part of a pilot scheme that allows round-trips with no ports of call.
All 1,680 passengers and 1,148 crew members on board the cruise tested negative for COVID-19 before the ship set sail on Monday, said STB.
The tourism board said on Wednesday afternoon that passengers on the ship would undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing before leaving the terminal as part of regular post-arrival protocols.
As a precautionary measure, they are also required to monitor their health for 14 days from the date of disembarkation and undergo a swab test at a designated government swabbing facility at the end of the monitoring period.
Close contacts of the positive case who are identified and test negative for COVID-19 will be sent to a designated government quarantine facility.
READ: After COVID-19 case, Quantum of the Seas cruise scheduled for Dec 10 to go ahead: Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean has decided to cancel its Quantum of the Seas cruise on Thursday "in an overabundance of caution". It had said earlier in the day that sailing would continue as scheduled.
Singapore has reported a total of 58,291 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday.