Reuters/AFP Phnom Penh/Sihanoukville
More passengers from a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia last week after being turned away at five other ports were to fly home yesterday, following tests for the new coronavirus, the country’s prime minister said.
An American woman who had been on the Westerdam cruise ship tested positive for the virus at the weekend after a special flight chartered by the cruise line reached Malaysia, prompting renewed scrutiny for the hundreds of passengers and crew still on board or ashore in Cambodia.
“Today more than 300 tourists will fly from Phnom Penh to Dubai on a (Boeing) 777 airplane, I have learned from the ship’s crew,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech.
Prime Minister Sen defended his decision to allow a US cruise ship to dock, while authorities scrambled to track down hundreds that came in contact with her.
He said samples from the remaining passengers were being flown by helicopter for testing in the capital, Phnom Penh. Once health officials have confirmed negative results, the tourists will be allowed to disembark.
Holland America Line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said 255 guests and 747 crew are still aboard the Westerdam, which docked at the port of Sihanoukville on Friday, awaiting clearance.
“We anticipate this will take several days and greatly appreciate the thoroughness of all authorities involved in resolving this situation,” a statement from the cruise line said.
Another 406 passengers who had been transferred to Phnom Penh have tested negative for the infection.
“Cleared guests may travel home, and arrangements are being made for those guests,” the company statement said.
Some 1,455 passengers and 802 crew boarded the cruise ship when it set sail on February 1 from Hong Kong.
The vessel spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand even though the ship said there were no
coronavirus cases aboard.
The Cambodia’s prime minister remained defiant yesterday.
“Some people say it brings the virus to Cambodia, but Cambodia has not had the disease (among its people),” he said in a speech.
The bombastic premier had greeted disembarking passengers on Friday with embraces and flowers.
As countries in the region scrambled on Monday to restrict access to Westerdam’s passengers, those in Phnom Penh were taken on a tour of the capital under the glare of state-aligned media.
Almost a thousand people remain onboard the Westerdam, barred from leaving until they have been tested.
Passenger Lorraine Oliveira said she is apprehensive about the results.
“I’m worried what the outcome will be if anyone on board tests positive – what will happen to us then?” she said.
Cambodia only has one confirmed case of the virus – a Chinese tourist who has since
The country, a staunch ally of Beijing, received billions of dollars in soft loans and investment from China, and Hun Sen travelled there earlier this month in a show of solidarity.
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