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Cruise ship left in limbo over virus fears finally docks in Cambodia

A luxury cruise ship turned away by several Asian countries over coronavirus fears docked on Thursday in Cambodia, where passengers have been approved to disembark after health inspections.

A luxury cruise ship turned away by several Asian countries over coronavirus fears docked on Thursday in Cambodia, where passengers have been approved to disembark after health inspections.

Holland America Line’s Westerdam docked at about 6 pm (1100 GMT) at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, port director Lou Kimchhun told dpa.

No passengers have left the ship yet, Kimchhun said. Cambodian officials were waiting to meet the ship’s captain and two other officers, he added.

Passengers aboard the Westerdam would not be allowed to disembark unless they have been checked by medical professionals and confirmed to show no symptoms of the virus, said Kheang Phearum, a government spokesman in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.

Another official told local media that at least 20 passengers who had been ill will be tested for the coronavirus.

Officials were aboard the ship to conduct medical checks and provide free visas, Preah Sihanouk police chief Chuon Narin told the Khmer Times.

A Health Ministry spokesman did not reply to requests for comment.

Kimchhun, the port director, said authorities would check temperatures of passengers and crew, and send samples for testing if symptoms of the virus were present.

Despite no coronavirus cases confirmed on board, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan have all refused to allow the ship to dock over concern it could be carrying infected passengers and crew.

The ship departed from Hong Kong and Taiwan in early February and is currently carrying 2,257 people, the cruise line said. Governments in both places have reported coronavirus infections.

Holland America had said passengers would disembark in Cambodia over several days.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially named the new disease Covid-19 on Tuesday, as countries continued to impose travel restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus. An expert commission named the virus Sars-CoV-2.

The virus was originally detected in China, where the majority of more than 45,000 infections and 1,100 deaths globally have been confirmed.

Cambodia has confirmed one case, a Chinese man, who was released from hospital quarantine earlier this week after officials said he had recovered.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked the Cambodian government for “clearing the way” for the Westerdam to dock at Sihanoukville soon.

“This is a welcome act of solidarity at a time when the world has a window of opportunity” to stop the virus and avoid stigma and fear, the WHO chief said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told government-aligned media portal Fresh News that fear, not the virus was the “real disease.”

“We must contribute to humanitarian affairs in times of emergency,” he said. “If no one allows entry, Cambodia does.”

Westerdam passenger Lorraine Oliveira told dpa in a Twitter message that the ship was positioned off the coast, and passengers were waiting to dock while health checks were under way.

Holland America had reassured passengers that “nobody on board has symptoms or a diagnosis,” said Oliveira, who lives in Britain and is vacationing with her husband and two children.

Health precautions, including temperature checks, increased sanitizing and visible cleaning, had been implemented aboard the ship, she added.

Asked about her favourite part of the trip, Oliveira said her family loved their day off the ship in Taiwan on February 4.

“Even though we’ve not been off ship since then it’s not been bad at all on board,” she added.

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