US cruise ship blocked over virus fears to dock in Cambodia

Sihanoukville (Cambodia): A US cruise ship blocked from several Asian ports over concerns that a passenger could have been infected with the new coronavirus arrived off Cambodia Thursday, as frustrated holidaymakers expressed hope that their ordeal may soon be over.
The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 1,455 passengers on a dream 14-day cruise around east Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and disembarking on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan. But the ship was turned away from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears of the novel coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 1,300 people in China.
Cruise operator Holland America has insisted there are no cases of the SARS-like virus on board and Cambodia announced Wednesday that the boat would be able to dock in Sihanoukville, on its southern coast.
By morning, the ship could be seen on the horizon off Sihanoukville, dwarfing the small fishing vessels that usually ply the waters. “First land sighting from the #Westerdam as the sun rises over Cambodia,” passenger Christina Kerby tweeted. But the ship would dock early Friday, said provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun.
“(Holland America) have asked to delay docking until tomorrow because they could not arrange for planes (from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh),” he said.
By mid-day, buses were lined up by the pier ready to transfer passengers to Sihanoukville’s airport, where they would fly to Phnom Penh before traveling home — a return trip that Holland America will pay for. Doctors were conducting health checks for the passengers, said transport minister Sun Chanthol. The samples of 20 on board who were sick were sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh to test for the virus. But “actually they don’t have symptoms of COVID-19.
We just want to make sure that everything is ok,” he told AFP. Cambodian premier Hun Sen is a staunch Chinese ally and has been vocal in his support of Beijing’s handling of the epidemic, even going so far as to visit China last week in a show of solidarity. (PTI)

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