A cruise ship that set sail from Singapore on Monday was forced to return a day early when an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for coronavirus. Except that now it turns out he didn’t have a coronavirus infection after all, officials said Thursday.
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas returned to port on Wednesday and allowed passengers to disembark late that evening after being quarantined in their rooms for most of the day. The 83-year-old man who sparked coronavirus fears on the ship had complained of a stomach illness, and his first test came back positive.
Three follow-up tests, however, “confirmed that the 83-year-old male Singaporean on board Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas does not have COVID-19 infection,” the Singapore Ministry of Health said in a statement Thursday. One of those was a retest of the original sample, the ministry said, adding that it would “support the laboratory on board the Quantum of the Seas in its review of its testing processes.”
Cruise ships suffered crippling outbreaks early in the pandemic, forcing passengers to quarantine in their staterooms and trapping crews on board for weeks at a time. Some companies have tried to confirm that passengers are virus-free before embarking, though travelers have still tested positive despite the precautions.
Singapore instituted its “cruise to nowhere” pilot program to stimulate the tourism economy and provide an outlet for residents who want to travel amid the pandemic. There were 1,680 passengers and 1,148 crew on the cruise ship, which aimed to provide an “Ocean Getaway” and intended to return to the port it launched from with no other stops after four days.
The Ministry of Health rescinded quarantine orders for the passengers who had close contact with the man.
In a statement, Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Keith Tan said the ordeal had “given us valuable learnings” and reinforced that the response to any onboard cases would be “swift and effective.” He commended Royal Caribbean International, the terminal operator and Genting Cruise Lines, which adjusted its own schedule in response to the incident.
“Their professionalism gives us confidence that our pilot cruises will continue to be safe and sustainable, as we work with our partners and cruise lines to chart a new course for safe cruising,” Tan said.