Ship boat

Thousands held on cruise ship amid Covid fear in Hong Kong

Francesca Street and Teele Rebane, CNN

More than 3,000 passengers and crew were detained on a large cruise liner in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning after a Covid alert prompted authorities to order the ship to return to port.

Nine people aboard Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas, which was on a ‘cruise to nowhere’ around the South China Sea, have been identified as close contacts of a positive Covid case.

The nine close contacts were sent to a government quarantine center after the ship returned to port on Jan.5, according to a Hong Kong government statement.

About 2,500 passengers and 1,200 crew members have been asked to stay on the ship for testing for the coronavirus.

Royal Caribbean said it was informed of the close contacts on Jan.4 and subsequently tested and isolated these passengers, according to a statement posted on the Hong Kong cruise line’s Facebook page. All nine close contacts were said to have tested negative via PCR testing.

To navigate Spectrum of the Seas, passengers and crew had to be fully vaccinated, complete a health declaration, and test negative within 48 hours of boarding. Unvaccinated children were required to test negative and complete a health declaration.

Omicron worries

In its statement, the Hong Kong government said it was concerned that nine people may have come in contact with a positive case of Omicron Covid.

Hong Kong reported its first case of the Omicron coronavirus last week, after nearly three months without any local cases.

Hong Kong has maintained strict border regulations and quarantine rules for the duration of the pandemic. Omicron’s passage through the net led the government to further restrict travel, banning flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United States and the United States. UK from January 8.

Local restrictions in Hong Kong have also been implemented, with indoor dining banned and entertainment venues such as cinemas, museums, bars and clubs temporarily closing.

Future cruises to nowhere are also not being considered at this time.

Global cruise chaos

There has been a spate of positive cases aboard global cruises in recent weeks, with MSC Cruises reporting 45 Covid-positive passengers on Tuesday aboard its ship MSC Grandiosa, which was sailing in the Mediterranean.

On December 30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level and said it should be avoided regardless of vaccine status.

The move “reflects the increase in the number of cases aboard cruise ships since the identification of the Omicron variant,” the CDC website said.

The industry body that represents the world’s major cruise lines, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), has expressed disappointment at CDC’s high level of risk.

“The CDC’s decision to increase the level of travel for cruises is particularly puzzling given that the cases identified on cruise ships consistently represent a very small minority of the total population on board – far less than on land – and the majority of these cases are asymptomatic. or light in nature, placing little or no burden on medical resources on board or ashore, ”the industry body said in a statement last week.

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CNN’s Wayne Chan, Marnie Hunter and Pauline Lockwood contributed to this report