Coronavirus: Cambodia welcomes thousands stranded aboard cruise ship that was denied entry by 5 nations
The passengers were unwelcome in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam, though none of them tested positive for the coronavirus disease
Cambodia welcomed thousands of people trapped in a cruise ship that was denied entry by five nations over coronavirus fears.
Passengers heaved a sigh of relief as the cruise ship, Westerdam, docked at Cambodia's port of Sihanoukville Friday. They were unwelcome in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam though none of them tested positive for the coronavirus disease or COVID -19.
"All guests onboard are healthy and despite the erroneous report, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been," Holland America Line wrote in a blog post.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed these passengers on Friday, saying, “Today, although Cambodia is a poor country, it has always joined the international community to solve the problems that the world and our region are facing." He added that he wanted to allow passengers to return to their home countries.
“How wonderful it is to be here. Thank you very much to the prime minister. He has a wonderful heart,” said Anna Marie Melon, from Queensland, Australia. “I’m very excited (to be here)," she said as she waved a rose Hun Sen handed to her.
A 74-year-old passenger named Joe Spaziani from Florida thanked the country. He told local reporters, "Cambodia alone, even the United States, Guam, did not let us land, but Cambodia did, so that is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. We appreciate it very very much. It’s been a long struggle and we appreciate everyone being here,” said Spaziani.
According to reports, 414 passengers will leave the port Friday and fly to Cambodia's capital before traveling to their final destinations. Three flights from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh were arranged to take all the ship's passengers. However, those who have traveled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the 14 days before their cruise start date will be denied entry.
The Westerdam began its cruise in Singapore last month. The ship was barred entry by various countries after it halted in Hong Kong, where 53 cases of the disease and one death have been confirmed.
Meanwhile, things are not looking up for passengers and crew members stranded on another cruise ship — Diamond Princess — on the coast of Japan's Yokohama. Japan has confirmed 44 new cases, bringing the total to 219, the largest outbreak outside mainland China. The ship will remain quarantined until February 19.
Japan's health minister announced Thursday that those aged 80 or older will be released from ship quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19. They will need to stay at lodgings provided by the government temporarily, he added.
Recently, Japan's vice-minister for health, labor and welfare health visited the quarantined cruise ship to thank passengers for their "understanding and cooperation."
Gaku Hashimoto said that he knew the situation was "difficult and inconvenient."
"We also understand that there are many people who are hoping to go home as soon as possible, and people who have pre-existing medical conditions who are still on board,” he said.