Feb 13 (IANS) A cruise ship carrying thousands on board that had been denied entry into several countries over fears that its passengers were infected with a the deadly coronavirus, docked in Cambodia on Thursday, 13 days after setting sail.
The Westerdam, which departed on February 1 from Hong Kong amid the growing outbreak and had been turned away from Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and the US territory of Guam, arrived in the port of Sihanoukville, where its operator Holland American Line, said it would remain several days, reports Efe news.
“Guests will disembark in Sihanoukville over the next few days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forward travel home. Holland America Line will arrange and pay for all flights home, in addition to the full cruise refund and 100 per cent future cruise credit already communicated,” the operator added.
Holland American Line added that there were no coronavirus infections among the 2,257 people on board – 1,455 guests and 802 crew members – which was Japan’s initial concern for not allowing it to dock in Yokohama and subsequent destinations.
“All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their (sic) ever been,” the operator read.
Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization director-general, thanked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for allowing the ship to dock in Sihanoukville.
“My sincere thanks to the government of Cambodia and Prime Minister Hun Sen for clearing the way for Westerdam Cruise ship to dock at Sihanoukville soon. This is a welcome act of solidarity at a time when the world has a window of opportunity to stop #COVID19 & avoid stigma & fear,” the tweet read.
Hun Sen’s government has taken a particularly relaxed stance amid the outbreak.
Addressing the media last month, he said that Cambodia would “stand by” China in light of the crisis and alluded that taking strong contingency measures would be detrimental to the economy and bilateral relations.
The comments came as he was asked whether the country would suspend flights to the affected areas in China, which he likened to “killing the Cambodian economy” and a downgrade of his country’s diplomatic relations with Beijing.
Cambodia has so far confirmed one case of the new coronavirus.
The WHO on Tuesday officially named the disease COVID-19, while the virus which causes it has been called SARS-CoV-2 (changed from its provisional name 2019-nCoV) by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
The organization said “CO” stands for “corona,” “VI” for “virus, “D” for “disease” and “-19” for “2019” – as the outbreak was first detected December 31.