Cruise operator races to track Cambodia passengers over virus

Source:AFP Published: 2020/2/17 20:18:41

A passenger celebrates as he leaves the Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville on Friday, where the liner docked after being refused entry at other Asian ports due to fears of the COVID-19 outbreak. Cambodia welcomed on Friday the passengers of a US cruise ship blocked from several Asian ports over fears of the virus. Photo: AFP


A US cruise operator is working to track down hundreds of passengers who disembarked a luxury liner in Cambodia after one traveler was later diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.

The Westerdam was at sea for two weeks during which it was barred from Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand over fears it could be carrying the virus, which originated in China and has killed more than 1,700 people.

Cambodia allowed the ship to dock Thursday at its southern coastal town of Sihanoukville, with authorities carrying out temperature checks on passengers before they left the ship to catch flights home.

But one traveler was stopped late Saturday on arriving in Malaysia after airport staff detected a fever. She was later diagnosed with the coronavirus. The 83-year-old American woman is under observation at a hospital while her husband, 85, is also being monitored.

Some 137 passengers from the Westerdam who also took the Malaysia flight with the American have now left on commercial flights for other destinations.

Cruise operator Holland America said late Sunday it was in "close coordination" with Malaysian and Cambodian officials alongside experts from the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The company is working with "national health authorities to investigate and follow up with individuals who may have come in contact with the guest", said Dr Grant Tarling, the operator's chief medical officer.

Another 233 passengers and 747 crew remain on the Westerdam, which is still docked at Sihanoukville. Authorities have been allowing them to leave the vessel in waves based on their flight bookings but those on board said they are now not permitted to disembark.

The Cambodian Ministry of Health said Sunday it was "actively searching for any suspected cases" and urged the public "not to worry too much."

Other passengers who have already left the ship are in Phnom Penh waiting for flights home.


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