The Westerdam cruise ship will be allowed to dock in Cambodia, according to a new statement from cruise ship operator Holland America Line. The ship had previously been refused entry by five countries over concerns that passengers might have been infected with the new coronavirus that has killed 1,116 and sickened over 45,000 worldwide.
“Westerdam is now sailing for Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where the current cruise will end. We will arrive at 7:00 a.m. local time on Thursday, Feb. 13 and will remain in port for several days for disembarkation,” Holland America Line told Gizmodo via email.
“Guests will be able to go ashore. All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support,” the statement continued.
The cruise ship, which has 1,455 guests and 802 crew, had been denied entry by Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, and the U.S. territory of Guam before attempting to dock in Thailand on Monday. But the Thai government announced on Tuesday that it would not be allowing the Westerdam to dock in Bangkok despite the fact that no one on board has a confirmed case of the virus.
“All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been,” Holland America Line, which is owned by Miami-based Carinval Corp, told Gizmodo.
Why are people freaking out about this particular cruise? A passenger who disembarked from the Westerdam on its stop in Hong Kong later tested positive for the coronavirus.
The passengers of Westerdam will now disembark at Sihanoukville, Cambodia and take chartered flights to Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh over the next few days, according to Holland America Line. The cruise line will pay for all flights home, which had been a concern for passengers who kept having to reschedule flights from different places where the ship was originally going to dock.
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave a name to the disease that this new coronavirus causes, dubbing it COVID-19, but the virus itself still doesn’t have a permanent name beyond the original designation, 2019-nCoV.
The original final destination for the Westerdam’s 14-day cruise was Yokohama, Japan, a city that is currently experiencing its own coronavirus crisis. The Diamond Princess was quarantined on arrival in Japan and passengers have not been allowed to leave.
At least 39 people tested positive for the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess today, along with one quarantine officer, bringing the total of passengers from that ship to 174, not including the quarantine officer. Four people from the ship are reportedly in serious condition, according to the Japan Times, though everyone who tests positive for the disease is removed from the ship and brought into hospitals.
Experts warn that it’s unusual to keep people quarantined on the cruise ship, especially since so many of the passengers are elderly.
“This is almost like a shooting gallery for the virus. It doesn’t make sense and is almost cruel,” Amesh Adalja from the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security recently told the Washington Post.
But Japan’s health ministry hasn’t budged. The only way off that boat is by getting sick. At least until the quarantine period, originally scheduled for 14 days, is over.