SINGAPORE - When a Covid-19 case was discovered on board Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, the vessel returned to Singapore, arriving on Wednesday (Dec 9) on the third day of a four-day cruise to nowhere.
The ship, which is the second to sail from Singapore as part of a safe cruise pilot scheme by the Singapore Tourism Board, has isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with the guest. All of them tested negative for the coronavirus.
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.
Here is a look at the safety regimes and protocol on the Quantum of the Seas.
All ships sailing out of Singapore will have to receive CruiseSafe certification and adhere to its safety and hygiene guidelines to screen for and prevent the spread of Covid-19.
These standards include:
- Putting in place infection control measures at every stage of a passenger's journey, including a mandatory Covid-19 test prior to boarding
- Strict and frequent cleaning and sanitisation protocols on ships
- Safe management measures aligned with prevailing national policy at the time of sailing, such as mask-wearing and safe distancing of 1m between groups of passengers
- Ensuring 100 per cent fresh air throughout the ship
- Reducing ship capacity to enable sufficient safe distancing. The Quantum of the Seas can serve approximately 2,000 guests at full capacity during the pandemic, half of its usual of over 4,000 passengers.
- Measures to discourage close contact and intermingling between groups of passengers
- Emergency response plans for incidents relating to Covid-19
Regular inspections will be conducted on board during the pilot sailings. Cruise lines that are found to be non-compliant will face penalties including fines, suspension of sailings and having their CruiseSafe certifications revoked.
Testing for foreign crew
The cruises are open to Singapore residents only, while crew on pilot cruises will be subject to stringent measures beyond Singapore's prevailing requirements for cross-border travel.
Those that need to enter Singapore to serve on the ships must first undergo 14 days of isolation in their home country and test negative for Covid-19 before their departure.
They will be tested on arrival and serve a 14-day stay-home notice, after which they will be tested again. Once sailing begins, all crew members will also be routinely tested.
The Quantum of the Seas is manned by approximately 1,200 crew members who are tested for Covid-19 every seven days. This is 70 per cent of its usual crew capacity.
Measures on board Royal Caribbean ships
Royal Caribbean has installed upgraded air filters on its ships. This allows for incoming air to be double-filtered to remove salt and other particles, making it cleaner than the air outside. They also allow for fresh air to be continuously pulled in from outside, replacing existing "used" air.
Air changes in large public spaces on Royal Caribbean ships about 15 to 20 times an hour, compared to the recommended three to four times an hour for land-based public venues like grocery stores, movie theatres and hotel lobbies.
Fan coil units in guests' cabins and public venues also continuously scrub the air of pathogens using a high-grade filter.
The Quantum of the Seas has a hospital on board, complete with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing laboratory and intensive care units equipped with ventilators, where Covid-19 cases can be isolated and treated.
The PCR test has been described as the "gold standard" of Covid-19 detection during the pandemic.