Coronavirus: Over 2,000 people stranded after four countries refuse to let Holland America cruise ship dock

Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the US territory of Guam have all prohibited Holland America's MS Westerdam cruise ship from docking.


                            Coronavirus: Over 2,000 people stranded after four countries refuse to let Holland America cruise ship dock
The Holland America Line cruise ship (Getty Images)

More than 2,000 people are stranded at sea after four countries reportedly denied permission for a cruise ship to dock over coronavirus fears. The measure was taken by the countries despite the crew insisting that there were no cases of the deadly virus on board, reports state. Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the US territory of Guam have all prohibited Holland America's MS Westerdam cruise ship from docking at their ports.

The cruise reportedly left Hong Kong on February 1 with 687 passengers remaining on board from a previous voyage. Reports state that there are a total of 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board at present. 

One of the passengers, Bev Thurbin, told the Daily Mail, that the ship had been denied permission to dock in Philippines and then later in Taiwan over coronavirus fears. Holland America, however, released a statement on Thursday night, saying that "the ship is not in quarantine and there are no known cases of coronavirus on board."

After the ship was denied permission to dock in these two countries, the ship sailed to Japan, telling passengers they would disembark in Yokohama. However, Japan also refused to let the passengers disembark, stating that it would use immigration laws to block their entry. 

Chinese children wear protective masks as they wait to board trains at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that foreign passengers would not be allowed to disembark, due to suspected coronavirus patients on board. While Transport Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba asked the ship to not call at the country's ports.

Guam, a US territory, also refused a request made by the State Department to dock, with Governor Leon Guerrerro saying: "While we feel for every soul on board the MS Westerdam, our obligation is to protect the people of Guam. Though Guam is prepared to deal with the potential implications of the coronavirus, few jurisdictions can screen, quarantine, or treat 1,400 patients at one time."

Amid mounting concerns among the passengers, Holland America released a statement, saying: "We are quickly working to develop alternate plans and are keeping guests updated on board as information becomes available. We are closely monitoring the evolving situation with respect to coronavirus that originated in mainland China."

The company added that any guests suffering breathing problems will be screened for coronavirus.

Japan, currently, is holding a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, in quarantine after it was revealed the vessel had confirmed cases of coronavirus. The number of infected people rose to 61 on Friday from 20 the last night. Coronavirus has killed over 630 people in China alone with confirmed 31,400 cases across 25 countries and territories.  

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