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Man who cut ‘cruise to nowhere’ short didn’t actually have COVID-19

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The man who caused a coronavirus scare on a “cruise to nowhere” in Singapore didn’t have the bug after all, officials said Thursday.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas cruise ship returned to its port in Singapore on Wednesday after the 83-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the boat’s nearly 1,700 passengers to hunker down in their cabins for more than 16 hours.

But three subsequent tests of the Sinagporean man all came back negative, including a redone test of his original sample and two tests with fresh samples he provided on Wednesday and Thursday, the southeast Asian city-state’s Ministry of Health said.

“We have rescinded the quarantine orders of his close contacts, who had earlier been placed on quarantine as a precautionary measure while investigations were ongoing,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it would help the cruise ship’s lab with a review of its testing processes.

The ordeal created a bump in the road for the “safe cruising” pilot program that Singapore launched in November to help the cruise industry recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean and Hong Kong’s Genting Cruise Lines have been cleared to offer voyages that start and end in Singapore with no port of call in between. Some airlines have similarly offered “flights to nowhere” that take off and land at the same airport.

Ambulance
Medical personnel helps a passenger onboard an ambulance as other passengers wait on the Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas after a passenger was believed to have tested positive for COVID-19. /Reuters
REUTERS

Singapore’s Tourism Board said the Royal Caribbean scare validated the cruise program’s strict COVID-19 safeguards, which include mandatory testing, social-distancing measures and reduced capacity.

The ship also halted leisure activities and activated an “extensive” contact tracing program after the man’s positive test was reported, the board said.

The incident has “given assurance that our established response to any future COVID-19 case is swift and effective,” Keith Tan, the tourism board’s chief executive, said in a statement.

“That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do,” Royal Caribbean said, adding that it had worked with Singapore’s government to develop a testing and monitoring system.

With Post Wires

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