SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 case detected on a cruise to nowhere illustrates the importance of having protocols in place to quickly contact trace and isolate close contacts, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
"We have put in place the necessary protocols to make sure that we can assure ourselves and assure the public that something like that can be managed," he told reporters on Wednesday (Dec 9).
The minister's comments come after the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas had to turn back on day three of a four-day cruise to nowhere when an 83-year-old Singaporean passenger tested positive for the coronavirus.
Various agencies are now going through the steps to contact trace and monitor passengers who came into contact with the patient, Mr Chan said.
The Ministry of Health later said the man's original polymerase chain reaction sample retest and a second fresh sample test both came back negative. Another test will be conducted on Thursday to confirm his Covid-19 status.
Mr Chan was speaking to reporters during a visit to Siemens Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre in Tuas, where he met with trainees of the additive-manufacturing training course under the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme.
That there could be a Covid-19 case on the cruise was not unexpected, he said. "We have always made the assumption that someday, something may happen."
In resuming economic activities, Singapore adopts a strategy of risk management rather than risk elimination, he added.
"Because a risk elimination strategy - zero risk - means not to do anything," Mr Chan said.
"And that would not be compatible with our overall strategy. So we must learn how to deal with such things, efficiently and effectively to provide assurance to our people."
The ship has isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with the guest. All of them tested negative for the coronavirus, said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) director of cruise Annie Chang.
The remaining passengers and crew will remain on board in their rooms until contact tracing is complete, Ms Chang added.
They will all undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing before leaving the cruise terminal.