The MS Westerdam cruise ship, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, were finally allowed to dock in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, after being turned away by five countries over fears of the coronavirus. According to Reuters, the ship was stuck at sea for two weeks after being denied access to ports in Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and Thailand for fears a passenger on board could have the flu-like virus.
The cruise had stopped for one day in Hong Kong two weeks ago, which sparked fears from surrounding countries over the safety of letting the ship dock. However, none of the passengers or crew had exhibited signs of the virus. Twenty people who were in ill health were screened for the virus, but all tests came back negative.
“We’ve had so many near moments we thought we were going home only to be turned away,” Angela Jones, an American tourist on board, told Reuters in a text message. “This morning, just seeing land was such a breathtaking moment.”
Cheers were heard from the ship as it was allowed to dock in Sihanoukville. Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would travel to Sihanoukville to personally welcome the ship’s passengers. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Cambodia as a prime example of showing “international solidarity” in this time of crisis.
Patrick Murphy, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, has sent a team to help the U.S. citizens with disembarking and coordinating their return home, said Reuters.
Jones stated that she was stilled confused why it took two weeks before they could dock. She stated to Reuters: “Thousands of travelers by air interacting with hundreds of people can land no problem but a cruise ship that made a one-day stop in Hong Kong almost two weeks ago is rejected by so many countries. Still makes no sense.”