After ‘cruise to nowhere’ returns early, Singapore says passenger does not have Covid

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas cruise ship docked at Singapore’s Marina Bay Cruise Centre on Dec. 9, 2020.

Rosanna Lockwood | CNBC

SINGAPORE — The Singaporean passenger who tested positive for Covid-19 onboard a cruise ship has subsequently tested negative for the disease, according to Singapore’s health ministry.

The passenger, an 83-year-old man, was aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas which set sail on Dec. 7 for a round trip to the city-state with no port of call in between. The ship was forced to return on Wednesday, a day earlier than scheduled, after the passenger went through a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test on the cruise liner which returned positive for Covid-19.

PCR tests have been used widely to detect cases as they are accurate in their diagnosis, but results take hours to return.

“His original sample has since been re-tested at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), and has come back negative for (Covid-19) infection. A second fresh sample tested by NPHL has also come back negative,” the Ministry of Health said Wednesday night, adding that another test would be conducted the next day to confirm his Covid-19 status.

On Thursday afternoon, the health ministry said the passenger does not have Covid-19.

“The sample taken from the individual this morning came back negative for the virus. This follows two Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests conducted yesterday by NPHL, one on a re-test of his original sample, and the other on a fresh sample taken yesterday, which had also come back negative,” the health ministry said in its daily preliminary update of Covid-19 cases in the city-state.

“We have rescinded the Quarantine Orders of his close contacts, who had earlier been placed on quarantine as a precautionary measure while investigations were ongoing,” the health ministry added in its statement.

The passenger was taken to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases at 2:30 p.m. Singapore time on Wednesday, according to the Singapore Tourism Board.

The tourism board added that all 1,680 passengers and 1,148 crew on board had tested negative for the virus prior to the ship’s departure. Passengers and crew members who came into close contact with the affected individual were isolated, while other passengers underwent mandatory testing before being allowed to leave the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, where the ship is docked.

In a separate statement, Royal Caribbean said its entire crew will undergo PCR tests on Thursday, while the ship will be deep cleaned and disinfected.

A 4-night cruise that was scheduled to depart Thursday was canceled, the cruise operator said.

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered the global travel and tourism sectors this year, including the cruise industry.

Singapore’s “cruise to nowhere” program is an attempt to bolster travel demand in the middle of the pandemic. To participate, cruise liners have to obtain a mandatory safety certification and will be subjected to an audit before they are allowed to commence sailing.

Only two operators, the Royal Caribbean and Genting Cruise Lines, are sailing from Singapore under this program.

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