Strict checks as Singapore welcomes ship banned by Thailand, Malaysia
Singapore-based Costa Fortuna with 2,000 on board turned away by Thailand, Malaysia amid virus fears
An Italian cruise ship turned away by Thailand and Malaysia is due to arrive back in Singapore today as scheduled, said the authorities.
Though there was no evidence of any coronavirus infection on board the Costa Fortuna, Thailand's Phuket island refused to let the ship dock because it had passengers with recent travel history in Italy.
The ship was also turned away from Penang island in Malaysia because the country has a new policy of not allowing any cruise ship to dock.
Doctors licensed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) will conduct enhanced, one-on-one checks on passengers who have been in northern Italy in the last 14 days after the Costa Fortuna docks here, MOH, the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in a joint statement last night.
Those who exhibit fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness will be taken directly to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and those without will be taken directly to the airport for their onward flights, they added.
All remaining passengers entering Singapore will undergo temperature screening as a precautionary measure.
Those with fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness will need to undergo a Covid-19 swab test, and anyone who refuses to do so will be denied entry into Singapore.
The New Paper understands that about 60 of the 2,000 crew and passengers on the ship are Italians, but it is not known which parts of Italy they are from.
MOH said last night that foreigners on short-term visit passes must now pay for Covid-19 treatment in hospitals, as 10 new infections, including three imported cases, were confirmed yesterday.
The three agencies said Singapore has handled more than 10 scheduled calls by cruise ships and disembarked more than 5,000 passengers over the past two weeks.
The Singapore-based Costa Fortuna departed from Marina Bay Cruise Centre here last Tuesday and is returning today as scheduled.
"Like all other cruise ships departing from Singapore's cruise terminals, Costa Fortuna was disinfected prior to its departure," they added.
All its passengers completed pre-embarkation checks based on prevailing policies for travel history and temperature screening, as required by the cruise line and the terminal operator. This is its 16th call since last December.
The agencies also said the Costa Fortuna had not picked up any passengers since it left Singapore last Tuesday.
Earlier, MPA and STB said the ship has declared on its Maritime Declaration of Health that none of its passengers on board is having a fever or other symptoms of respiratory illness.
Costa Cruises, which operates the Costa Fortuna, also said all its passengers are healthy.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist, told TNP there could still be a health concern as people on board could be infected at the incubation stage and have yet to show symptoms.
But Dr Tony See, a political science and international relations associate professor at a university here, said it was a pragmatic move for Singapore to allow the ship to berth here.
"It's the right move by Singapore. Our country is making a careful step to demonstrate its ability to deal with anxiety-inducing crises like Covid-19," he told TNP.
"It also presents health risks so Singapore must quarantine all passengers and crew for 14 days as per health guidelines. But Singapore has proven itself able to handle the crisis."
Costa Cruises told TNP yesterday that its next Costa Fortuna cruise, due to depart today, has been cancelled.
Affected customers will be offered a voucher of equal value for a new cruise, it said.
It added that another Costa Fortuna cruise due to depart Singapore for Savona, Italy, on March 19, is under evaluation.
Costa Cruises said the changes in itineraries were not due to medical reasons, but increased restrictions imposed by destinations.
"We are constantly monitoring the restrictive measures adopted by government authorities in the destinations where our ships call.
"The protection of the health and safety of our guests and crew members is of upmost priority," it said.
In Europe, Italy is the hardest-hit by the coronavirus, with its death toll nearly tripling from 133 to 366 and infections jumped from 1,492 to 7,375 in a single day, reports said yesterday.