Cruise ship docks in Cambodia after being rejected 5 times due to coronavirus fears


Syahindah Ishak | February 13, 2020, 03:05 PM

The MS Westerdam, a cruise ship owned by Holland America Line, was stranded across Asia for nearly two weeks after being turned away by Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines.

Coronavirus concerns came after confirmed cases on board Diamond Princess

MS Westerdam had been shunned for fear that someone aboard is infected with the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19), despite the ship repeatedly stating there are no suspected cases, according to CNN.

This fear probably stems from news of another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess in Yokohama, having its 3,700 crew and passengers quarantined when an 80-year-old passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong, tested positive for Covid-19.

As of Thursday (Feb. 13), the total number of infections on board Diamond Princess has risen to 218.

This means that the ship is by far the biggest cluster of Covid-19 outside of mainland China.

Allowed to dock and disembark in Cambodia

MS Westerdam previously had plans to disembark in Bangkok on Feb. 13 but its request to dock in the city was rejected by Thai's Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

The ship announced on Wednesday (Feb. 12) that it could potentially run out of food, according to Guardian.

However, Thailand's Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate said via Reuters that Thailand, although still rejecting the ship's permission to dock, “will gladly help providing fuel, medicine, and food”.

On Wednesday (Feb. 12), the ship, which has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board, finally found a port to dock.

Holland America announced that the ship will be making its way to an anchoring point in Sihanoukville, Cambodia after the country allowed its passengers to disembark there.

But apparently not before engaging in a medical check.

MS Westerdam arrived at Sihanoukville on Thursday (Feb. 13) morning.

Passengers refunded the cruise's costs

The ship will spend a few days at port to allow passengers to disembark and take charter flights to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital.

From there, they can fly back to their home countries.

According to Kyodo News, only about 500 passengers, who have bought air tickets to fly back home, will be screened.

Holland America Line will pay for its passengers' travel back home.

Passengers have also been refunded the cruise's costs and offered credit for a future cruise.

Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said via Kyodo News that granting MS Westerdam's permission to dock demonstrates Cambodia's "outstanding humanitarian work and commitment to the world that it takes care of other nationalities".

Chief of World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also praised Cambodia's actions.

He said via Reuters:

"This is an example of international solidarity we have been consistently calling for...Outbreaks can bring out the best and the worst in people."

Top image from Holland America's website.