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Friday, October 23, 2020

Singapore launches Covid-secure luxury cruises … to nowhere

City state follows Qantas in offering jaunts with no destination with ships half full and masks mandatory




The 151,000-tonne World Dream cruiseliner docked at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong in February.
Photograph: Jérôme Favre/EPA

Singapore is launching Covid-secure cruise holidays to nowhere, in the latest attempt to offer a long-distance travel experience with no stops.

Australian airline Qantas drew criticism from environmental groups last month after advertising a seven-hour round trip from Sydney including fly-pasts of famous sights including Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.

Now the Singapore government has given approval for cruises to nowhere in a bid to help a tourism sector battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Residents of the city-state will from November be allowed to board the cruises, during which they will be confined to the ships for the entire time.

Q&A

Coronavirus: should everyone be wearing face masks?

Some countries and states have been recommending that everybody wears face masks in indoor settings where social distancing is difficult or impossible. They have been made mandatory on public transport or in shops in many countries.

According to guidance from the World Health Organization, people over 60 or with health issues should wear a medical-grade mask when they are out and cannot socially distance, while all others should wear a three-layer fabric mask.

The WHO guidance, announced on 5 June, is a result of research commissioned by the organisation. It is still unknown whether the wearers of masks are protected, say its experts, but the new design it advocates does give protection to other people if properly used.

The WHO says masks should be made of three layers – with cotton closest to the face, followed by a polypropylene layer and then a synthetic layer that is fluid-resistant. These are no substitute for physical distancing and hand hygiene, it says, but should be worn in situations where distancing is difficult, such as on public transport and at mass demonstrations.

The WHO has been reluctant to commit to recommending face coverings, firstly because the evidence on whether they offer any protection to the public is limited and – more importantly – because it was afraid it would lead to shortages of medical-grade masks for health workers.

 Sarah Boseley Health editor

Thank you for your feedback.

The Singapore Tourism Board on Thursday announced that Genting Cruise Lines’ World Dream would be the first ship to welcome passengers aboard on 6 November. Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas will begin sailing in December.

The ships launching from Singapore will only be allowed to carry half their full capacity, with extra cleaning schedules and mandatory masks “at all times”.

Passengers will be obliged to take Covid-19 tests, and mingling will be discouraged. Fresh air will be pumped throughout the ships via air-conditioning systems, and any non-Singapore-resident crew will have to carry out 14 days of quarantine in their home country and a further 14 days in Singapore before boarding.

The cruise industry has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, after outbreaks on multiple ships among staff and passengers sharing enclosed spaces for days.

Keith Tan, the Singapore Tourism Board’s chief executive, said the scheme would allow cruise lines to “regain the confidence of passengers”.

However, the announcement prompted concerns from environmental campaigners. Cruise ships generally use heavy fuel oil, meaning they can be significant polluters.

A 2019 study by Transport & Environment (T&E), a campaign group, found that in 2017 Royal Caribbean alone emitted four times more sulphur oxides than all of Europe’s cars combined. Sulphur oxides can cause health problems and acid rain, while harmful nitrogen oxides can also be a by-product from the industry.

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Many ships scrub harmful gases from their exhaust and then discharge the pollutants into the sea, as well as emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide, said Lucy Gilliam, a shipping campaigner at T&E.

“These ships can have a higher carbon footprint than flying in a jumbo jet,” she said. “They’re burning significant amounts of fuel per passenger because they’ve essentially got a huge hotel load as well as amusements on top.”

Efforts to restart the cruising industry have already been plagued with problems, with Covid-19 detected on cruise ships in Norway and Tahiti in August.

This post courtesy of Guardian-Climate

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This post courtesy of Guardian-Climate