Hong Kong forces cruise ship back from trip, holds 2,500 for COVID testing

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Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship was forced to turn around and return to Hong Kong after passengers on board were linked to an Omicron outbreak. Thousands of passengers were held on the ship on Wednesday pending COVID-19 testing.

The “cruise to nowhere” left Hong Kong on Sunday and was forced to return a day earlier than planned after concerns about the Omicron variant, according to a government statement.

Health officials said nine passengers on the ship were linked to a cluster of Omicron cases returning to shore, so they requested the ship be returned to port.

After the ship returned to Hong Kong on Wednesday morning, the 2,500 passengers on board were held on the ship for most of the day, waiting to be tested after learning that a few other passengers had been exposed to the Omicron variant. rapidly spreading.

The nine passengers who were exposed were immediately placed in isolation and all tested negative, Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

The cruise line said passengers on board during the incident would receive a 25% refund. The ship was due to leave on Thursday, but that cruise was canceled because the crew needed to be tested. Passengers on this trip will be fully reimbursed.

Thousands of passengers were being held on the Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship in Hong Kong on Wednesday for coronavirus testing after health officials said nine passengers were linked to a recent Omicron cluster and ordered the ship to do a halfway. tower. Journalists film the Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship which is docked at the Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.
Vincent Yu / AP Photo

One passenger, Claudy Wong, said Royal Caribbean has done its best to follow pandemic regulations.

“The pandemic has been going on for so long, in fact passengers like us who board the cruise are already prepared for such situations to occur,” Wong said.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement that the company is working closely with authorities to comply with epidemic prevention policies and regulations.

Hong Kong officials announced a two-week ban on flights from the United States and seven other countries as the city tries to stem an emerging Omicron outbreak.

The two-week ban on passenger flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States will take effect on Sunday and will continue until January the 21st.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam also announced that dining out will be banned after 6 p.m. for two weeks starting Friday. Game rooms, bars and beauty salons must also close during this time.

“We need to contain the pandemic to ensure that there is not again a major epidemic in the community,” Lam said at a press conference, adding that the city was “on the verge” of another push.

The measures came as new Omicron clusters emerged over the past week, many of which are linked to several Cathay Pacific crew members who broke isolation rules and dined at restaurants and bars across the country. the city before they tested positive.

Hong Kong reported 114 cases of Omicron variants on Tuesday, most of them imported. On Tuesday, he reported his first untraceable case in nearly three months, which authorities said was likely caused by the Omicron variant.

Hong Kong officials have acted quickly to block the spread of the variant, closing residential buildings where people have tested positive and mass-testing thousands of people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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