Passengers begin disembarking in Cambodia from shunned cruise ship

Clay Curtis
February 15, 2020

The vessel was denied entry at ports in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the USA territory of Guam, prompting fears that the Westerdam would run out of supplies. Twenty passengers who had reported signs of being ill tested negative for COVID-19, World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Friday news conference.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Friday welcomed passengers disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship in southwest Cambodia's Sihanoukville after all had tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

"How wonderful it is to be here". Thank you very a lot.

Among the first Westerdam passengers to step off the ship was Anna Marie Melon, from Queensland, who lauded Mr Hun Sen.

"If Cambodia did not allow this ship to dock here, where should this ship go?"

He praised President Trump, the US State Department and National Security Council for being "instrumental" in securing passage to Cambodia. "Absolutely wonderful", Joe Spaziani, 74, of Florida told local reporters.

Meantime, US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg told The Post: "We are greatly appreciative of Cambodia's efforts and assistance, and its hospitality during this hard time. It's been a long struggle and we appreciate everyone being here".

Holland America Line updated their public statement Tuesday after Thailand became the latest country to reject the ship, saying they're aware of reports regarding the status of the ship's call to Bangkok and are "actively working this matter".

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The shipping line said passengers would transfer over the next few days to Phnom Penh to connect with charter flights to take them home.

However, on Thursday morning Sihanoukville's police chief told the Khmer Times 20 passengers showed signs of illness (stomach upsets and flu-like symptoms).

On Thursday, Japan's health officials confirmed 218 passengers and crew, as well as one quarantine officer, have been infected making it the largest cluster of infections outside China, the source of the COVID19 outbreak.

But despite having no confirmed cases of coronavirus, the ship was turned away over fears it was carrying someone with the new virus, which has now killed nearly 1,400 people and infected over 64,000, mostly in China.

Cambodia's leader has been vocal in his support for China's handling of the coronavirus outbreak and has refused to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the epidemic. Blood samples sent to Phnom Penh for laboratory checks subsequently showed that none of the tested passengers had contracted the Covid-19 virus. The change, apparently in response to a scarcity of test kits and concerns about their reliability, caused a sharp uptick in cases.

"This does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak", said Mark Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies program. After recovering from the COVID-19 illness, he recently returned home from Sihanoukville. They used the antibodies to treat patients in critical condition, with significant results, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

"The ship is reporting that there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus on board, and the medical personnel on the ship are monitoring the situation closely".

It said three critically ill patients in the Jiangxia District of Wuhan received the treatment on February 8 and that now "more than 10" critically ill patients were being similarly treated.

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