Cruises to nowhere may spread Covid all over: expert

A specialist in respiratory medicine warned on Thursday that the “cruises to nowhere” announced by the government this week will “obviously” bring with them a risk of imported coronavirus cases, and infected passengers could go on to spread the virus “all over Hong Kong”.

Dr Leung Chi-chiu said the short cruises would only be truly safe if the SAR achieves a high coronavirus vaccination rate.

Even though passengers and crew will be required to be inoculated, the vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection, he said, noting that it will be difficult to detect any infections on board during the short journeys planned.

If any passengers catch Covid on the ships, they could then bring it back into the community and it will spread further if not enough members of the public are vaccinated, Leung said.

Around 14 percent of Hongkongers have so far had two doses of coronavirus vaccine, whereas the World Health Organisation says an inoculation rate of at least 60 percent will be needed to achieve herd immunity.

“Authorities must be careful with the infection control measures for the ships and their crews before and after they arrive in Hong Kong. Even though they have been staying on the vessels, the pandemic situation in the Asia region is serious,” Leung said.

“This disease has a lot of asymptomatic patients, and then there’s the incubation period. Tests alone can’t ensure they are safe. The risk of the ships bringing imported cases is very obvious.”

“If there is any infection on board, you may not be able to detect it at once. And then it will be spread all over Hong Kong,” he warned.

Leung said the government should require crew members to be tested every seven days – and immediately if they show any symptoms of the virus – so as to detect any infections and stop possible transmission chains early.