Scramble to track Cambodia cruise ship passengers after coronavirus case reported

Scramble to track Cambodia cruise ship passengers after coronavirus case reported

FILE PHOTO: The cruise ship MS Westerdam at dock in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia
FILE PHOTO: The cruise ship MS Westerdam at dock in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Tostevin/File Photo

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia: Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia.

The cruise line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp , said none of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew have reported any symptoms.

READ: Cruise liners steer clear of mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore over COVID-19 fears

"Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information," a statement from the company said.

Six passengers tested negative for COVID-19, according to laboratory results received from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 17.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the six passengers - four citizens of the United States and two from the Netherlands - are now at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, waiting to board their respective flights, and are in good health.

"The embassies have been informed of the test results and the passengers will be allowed to board their flights in order to continue their journey to their respective destinations," said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement.

As of Monday, Malaysia has 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of whom eight have recovered completely.​​​​​​​

Passengers of the Westerdam had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities after health checks when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.

READ: Thailand refuses entry to cruise ship amid coronavirus concerns

READ: Chess, squabbles aboard cruise ship cast away by coronavirus fears

But on Saturday, Malaysia said an American woman who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday on a chartered flight had tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,700 people, the vast majority in China.

The woman's husband tested negative for the coronavirus.

About 137 of the 145 passengers on the chartered flight had already left for other countries as of Sunday after showing no signs of illness, Malaysian authorities said.

Dozens more of the Westerdam passengers had flown through Thailand and onward to other countries, Thai officials said.

At least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said. Others were in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Holland America said it is working with health officials in Malaysia and Cambodia and experts in the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

"These experts are working with the appropriate national health authorities to investigate and follow-up with individuals who may have come in contact with the guest," said Dr. Grant Tarling, Chief Medical Officer for Holland America Line.

Several hundred other passengers who left the ship are still in Cambodia, according to passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.

"I believe there's 300 Americans here at this hotel plus a few hundred from other countries. We will all be tested for the coronavirus today and tomorrow by the Cambodian Ministry of Health," Rauen told Reuters on Sunday.

"We have no idea when we get to get home but Holland America is working on all of our flight reservations. We have ambassadors from the US Embassy here in Phnom Penh as well as from Australia and other countries to help people figure out what to do," she said.

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Source: Reuters/Bernama/ic

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