Expert reassures cruise passengers amid Covid scare

Respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi-chiu on Wednesday sought to reassure passengers on board a luxury cruise liner potentially exposed to the Omicron variant that they’re unlikely to have caught the virus.

Health authorities had ordered the vessel, Spectrum of the Seas, to return to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal one day early after it emerged that nine close contacts of a Covid patient were on board.

Officials boarded the vessel on Wednesday to test all 2,500 passengers and 1,200 crew members for Covid-19.

The nine close contacts had been put into isolation on the ship, and have all tested negative in preliminary tests conducted by the cruise operator.

Leung warned that despite the result, there is still a substantial risk that the nine may indeed have caught the virus.

However, he stressed that this does not mean they would have easily passed the virus on, since they would have already been in isolation by the time they had a high enough viral load to test positive.

He said until results of further tests are out for the nine, other passengers and the crew had to stay on the vessel, but there was no need to put all of them in quarantine camp unless any of the nine are confirmed to be infected.

As of Wednesday afternoon, some passengers have disembarked after testing negative while others were still waiting to be tested.

One of the passengers said he will pay close attention to his health after returning home.

“As you can imagine, the ship is only so big, so [the close contacts] must have been in the same places as you – maybe the restaurants, maybe the lift. Transmission could occur there. You can’t worry too much about that,” he told RTHK.

“I plan to stay home in the next few days because I’ve taken time off work. I’ll get tested before I go back to work on Monday,” he said.

He also said passengers can still dine at the restaurants on board, but the swimming pools and other facilities are closed while the testing continues.

The cruise operator, Royal Caribbean International, said it has been complying with epidemic prevention policies and has asked all guests to be fully vaccinated and provide negative test results before boarding the cruise liner.

It added it was cancelling a trip scheduled for Thursday.
Last updated: 2022-01-05 HKT 18:53