China coronavirus cases, China Omicron cases, cruise ship in Hong Kong ordered to return for COVID testing

The ship, named “Spectrum of the Seas”, offers the people the “Cruise to Nowhere” that was recalled. (Representative)

Hong Kong:

A Hong Kong cruise ship carrying 3,700 people was ordered back to port for virus testing on Wednesday after nine people were found to be close contacts in an Omicron variant outbreak.

Like mainland China, Hong Kong follows a zero-Covid policy and maintains some of the strictest measures in the world – including virtually closed borders, week-long quarantines, targeted lockdowns and mass testing.

The city has recorded 114 omicron cases, most of which have been identified at the airport or during the 21-day hotel quarantine that is mandated for most arrivals.

But a small community outbreak among Cathay Pacific airline employees has sparked large-scale testing and contact tracing in recent days.

On Wednesday, those tracing efforts reached “Spectrum of the Seas,” one of the ships offering a “cruise to nowhere” to co-op Hong Kongers that sails into international waters for short voyages. .

Health officials said nine people on the cruise that left on Sunday were classified as close contacts and ordered the ship to return to port a day earlier.

Everyone on board – 2,500 passengers and 1,200 crew – must test negative before disembarking.

Outside the cruise terminal on Wednesday, an AFP reporter could see guests relaxing and exercising on their outdoor balconies.

“A lot of the dining tables and seats in the theater were sealed, and we have wristbands that can help track our movements on board,” said one passenger, who asked anonymity.

“When we booked the tour, we knew there was risk. It’s just unfortunate that it’s us,” he said.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, one of Hong Kong’s top COVID-19 experts, warned that there could be an invisible infection link in the city.

“There is likely to be a fifth wave,” the UN told reporters on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s strict health regulations have kept the city largely free of the virus, with just over 12,000 cases and 213 deaths since the pandemic began.

But it has also left a trading center that calls itself the “world city of Asia,” cut off from the rest of the world, including mainland China.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the resumption of travel routes with mainland China must come before reopening to the rest of the world.

But earlier this week she said the latest outbreak would delay those plans.

International businesses have voiced growing frustration with Hong Kong’s global isolation as they struggle to retain and recruit talent as rival financial centers learn to live with the virus.

Several airlines have started avoiding Hong Kong and evacuating pilots and crew from the city.

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific has dramatically reduced passenger and cargo flights in recent weeks due to stringent quarantine measures.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)