As from today (8 July) seafarers arriving in Hong Kong to join ships will be subject to deep-throat saliva screening for COVID-19, as part of a wider clamp down for people exempted from quarantine measures.
The move comes amidst a local flare up of the disease with 14 new cases confirmed yesterday in Hong Kong.
The new practice will naturally be a cause for delay as arrivals intending to join their ship will have to be isolated at the owners’ expense until the results of the test are received – which may be a matter of hours to one day.
Plans to turn away arriving crew who have not been tested before setting off from home are also expected to be introduced soon. A source close to the decision said that seafarers who arrive by air to the Hong Kong International Airport will be required to have a certificate showing they have been tested. What remains at issue at the moment is how long such a certificate can remain valid.
Meanwhile there is currently no plan to mandate that seafarers who disembark their vessels in Hong Kong be tested for the virus. The current arrangement is that the crew remain on the vessel until transport is arranged for their passage to the airport.
An incident that occurred at the end of last month may have influenced the latest decision. Eleven crew members of the Panama-flagged containership, MSC Flavia, were tested positive for COVID-19, upon arrival at the port of Ningbo, having joined the ship in Hong Kong on June 24.
Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection yesterday later revealed that of the 11 crew members, nine of them embarked on the ship from Hong Kong on June 24 with six arriving in Hong Kong from Indonesia, two from Greece and one from Croatia between June 21 and June 23.
All were declared to be asymptomatic on arrival in Hong Kong. Two of the nine cases were subsequently detected as having fever on arrival in Ningbo while the other seven were asymptomatic.