Coronavirus: Yoga, sea air and safe distancing on board cruise ships for 3,000 recovered migrant workers

The workers are allowed to use the outdoor spaces for about 45 minutes each day.
The workers are allowed to use the outdoor spaces for about 45 minutes each day.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
The timing of the outdoor sessions, done in groups of 10, is staggered.
The timing of the outdoor sessions, done in groups of 10, is staggered.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
A room on the SuperStar Gemini, which serves as temporary accommodation for workers who have recovered from Covid-19.
A room on the SuperStar Gemini, which serves as temporary accommodation for workers who have recovered from Covid-19.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
In the last few days, the workers have been allowed to dine at the ships' restaurants instead of in their rooms.
In the last few days, the workers have been allowed to dine at the ships' restaurants instead of in their rooms.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Foreign workers scan their cards before having their meals on board the SuperStar Gemini.
Foreign workers scan their cards before having their meals on board the SuperStar Gemini.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Genting Cruise Lines is prepared to have the workers on board until the end of July.
Genting Cruise Lines is prepared to have the workers on board until the end of July.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Every day, Mr Rajagopal Sathiyavasan, 42, starts his morning with a session of yoga and takes in a scenic view of the Singapore Strait.

The Indian national is one of about 3,000 migrant workers staying on board two mid-sized cruise ships, the SuperStar Gemini and the SuperStar Aquarius, which serve as temporary accommodation for workers who have recovered from Covid-19.

Both cruise ships, which are docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre and are run by Genting Cruise Lines, house non-essential workers.

The cruise company is prepared to have these workers on board until the end of July, said Mr Michael Goh, head of international sales at Genting and president of Dream Cruises, during a media tour of the SuperStar Gemini on Saturday (May 23). 

 The company is, however, ready to extend the arrangement if necessary, he added.

There are about 200 crew members on each ship to support operations.

These temporary arrangements are part of the Government's plans to reduce the number of people living in the existing foreign worker dorms, which have recently become the main source of Covid-19 infections here.

Mr Sathiyavasan, a safety supervisor, has been on board the SuperStar Gemini for two weeks, and while he enjoys the plush interiors of the twin cabin he has been assigned and the view of the sea from the ship's deck, he cannot wait to get back to work or return to his dormitory in Toh Guan.

"It's been two months since I worked or saw my friends... I want to go outside and feel free," he said.

He tested positive for the virus in mid-March and was hospitalised in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He was given the all-clear on March 29, and was later put up at a hotel before being moved to the ship.

He was happy to test negative for the virus. "I fought Covid-19 and won!"


Every day, Mr Rajagopal Sathiyavasan, 42, starts his morning with a session of yoga and takes in a scenic view of the Singapore Strait. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG


The workers are allowed to use the outdoor spaces on the ship's deck for about 45 minutes each day. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The first group of workers boarded on April 29, and, since mid-May, about 200 have disembarked to return to their dorms, said the Singapore Tourism Board.

The workers are required to stay in their cabins most of the time, but they are allowed to use the outdoor spaces on the ship's deck for about 45 minutes each day.

 
 

The timing of these outdoor sessions, done in groups of 10, is staggered and all workers have to wear face masks and maintain a 1m distance from each other.

This is when Mr Sathiyavasan usually video calls his wife and two children back home in India to show them the view and to also let them know that he is all right.

The workers on board are assessed to be well and no longer infectious. However, medical facilities are still available for them and twice-daily temperature checks are also done.

In the last few days, they have also been allowed to dine at the ships' restaurants instead of in their rooms, with safe distancing measures in place, such as having seats spaced sufficiently apart.


In the last few days, the workers have been allowed to dine at the ships' restaurants instead of in their rooms, with safe distancing measures in place. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG


The workers have a choice of oriental, vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals to choose from. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Getting the two ships and hundreds of employees ready for the operation was not an easy feat, said chief executive Lionel Wong of Sats-Creuers Cruise Services, which is the operator of the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

 
 

He said it has been a "great learning curve" for everyone, especially since many of them have not had experience or expertise in running a dormitory.

Mr Wong also thanked the terminal and ship crew involved in the operation, saying: "This dedication - it's no different from that of the front-line workers in the hospitals. And this is something we should appreciate them for."