World Health Organization thanks Cambodia for allowing stranded cruise ship to dock

Cheryl Sanders
February 14, 2020

The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew on board, was supposed to go on a 14-day cruise around East Asia - beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and ending on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.

According to its passenger list, 1,455 people were nationals of 41 countries, including 651 Americans, Canadians (271), British (127), and Dutch (91), among others.

Christina Kerby, a guest on the ship, said on Twitter that passengers have been informed that no coronavirus has been found and they will be able to begin disembarking Friday morning.

"Today, although Cambodia is a poor country, Cambodia has always joined the global community to solve the problems that the world and our region are facing", the strongman said as the first passengers emerged after two weeks at sea. The ship is not in quarantine and we have no reason to believe there are any Covid-19 cases on board despite media reports. Passengers will then disembark before being transferred via chartered flights to the country's capital, Phnom Penh, paid for by Holland America.

"Captain reports that ship is coordinating closely with Thai authorities, the World Health Organization and govts of US, Canada, Holland and others", tweeted passenger Christina Kerby.

As it entered Thai waters yesterday, the plan was to dock on the eastern coast before passengers were ferried to Bangkok from where they could take flights home.

"We don't have wealth like a rich country but we have sympathy for the passengers stranded on the ship".

Sihanoukville is a province located in southwest Cambodia.

"We know this is confusing for our guests and their families and we greatly appreciate their patience", the company said. "The safety of Americans overseas is my highest priority", he said, adding that his embassy team was now in Sihanoukville to assist the authorities with disembarking and the transfer to the next destination. "From the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, we are sticking with you as long as it takes".

"We have been tied up for five hours off Cambodia".

The Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea all rejected the vessel, which was carrying more than 2,200 people including Australians, despite the fact that there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus on board. But the extended duration on the ship has provided quality family time, and she is grateful that the staff on board have been extremely accommodating and tending to their every need.

In Sihanoukville port, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Public Works and Transportation Sun Chanthol, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun, and officials from several relevant embassies are waiting to welcome the passengers.

The country's strongman premier, Hun Sen, flew in by helicopter to welcome passengers with flowers and scarves as they left the Westerdam cruise ship following two uncertain weeks at sea.

Pierre Boucher, one of the passengers on the ship, said passengers were told to fill out medical information forms in order to obtain visas, for which Holland America Line paid. "If someone is very sick on the sea, it is hard to evacuate them", Dr Widdowson added.

The figures from China were the second batch released after Hubei changed the diagnostic criteria for the disease, adding patients who were showing symptoms of COVID-19 but that either had not been tested for the virus or had previously tested negative. What we know for sure is that four of them have a stomach ache and six had diarrhoea. "What we can say is that blood samples have been taken for tests", Chamroeun said.

He said five to six flights could have been made with each flight accommodating up to 180 passengers.

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