Published: Sat, February 15, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

World Health Organization chief thanks Cambodia for accepting Westerdam cruise ship

World Health Organization chief thanks Cambodia for accepting Westerdam cruise ship

The passengers cheered as they walked toward waiting buses and waved goodbye to other passengers watching from the ship's deck.

The 2,257 passengers and crew aboard a luxury cruise liner that was barred by many ports over fears it harbored the coronavirus will finally set foot on dry land, ending an ordeal that's gone on for nearly two weeks.

MS Westerdam left Singapore on Jan 16 before being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines.

The scramble in Tokyo to close its ports came on the heels of a surge in confirmed cases in the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which is now under quarantine and docked in Yokohama.

The illness first surfaced within the Chinese town of Wuhan, within the Hubei province, in December. However, health experts said ships are actually safer than aircraft.

Holland America said it had been assisted by U.S. embassies working through diplomatic channels, and thanked passengers and their families for their patience "during this two-week ordeal". The Ottawa man said they were on "virtual anchorage" for 10 hours before the ship was allowed to dock at the port.

"If someone does fall sick, it is possible to confine them to cabins, but the ship facilities are often not equipped to deal with many severe illness at a time".

The Westerdam docked at the port of Sihanoukville in the south of the country on Thursday evening.

He praised President Trump, the US State Department and National Security Council for being "instrumental" in securing passage to Cambodia. Malaysia and Thailand also turned away the Westerdam. "What we can say is that blood samples have been taken for tests", Chamroeun said. But Hanson was satisfied by the operator's handling of the marine mishap and the promise of full refund.

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Unlike Hansen, passengers of another cruise were less lucky with getting their money back.

Similarly, P&O Cruises' Arcadia liner has removed stops in Shanghai and Hong Kong in March, although it has yet to announce alternative ports.

It was not immediately known whether any of the five Japanese - four passengers and one crew member - aboard were among those who disembarked Friday.

What happens next for the passengers remains uncertain.

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have introduced enhanced safety measures, denying permission to board to book guests who have been through mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the preceding two weeks, and initiating mandatory health screenings of other guests who may be at risk due to their travel history.

"(Cruises) will offer aggressive prices to fill their new cruises and passengers will quickly respond", Chiron said.

Thai officials may have felt the need to adopt the strict stance after several dozen passengers on another cruise ship, the Princess Diamond, tested positive for the virus. But one wayward passenger flouted the order and took a dip in a fitness club pool the day after.

After being denied entry into Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Taiwan, unnerved vacationers on the Westerdam were initially relieved when the cruise ship's captain announced on Monday that they'd finally be disembarking in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 13. Fears of the novel coronavirus (now officially known as COVID-19) has prompted four different nations and the US territory of Guam to deny them entry despite no one on board being diagnosed with the illness that has caused global panic.

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