Cruise passengers rejected by several countries for fear of COVID-19 began disembarking today in Cambodia after authorities ruled out that any of them were carriers of the virus.
The “Westerdam”, of the Holland America Line shipping company, docked today at the port of Sihanoukville, where local authorities and diplomatic personnel were waiting, one day after anchoring off the coast.
“The first passengers have already left the ‘Westerdam’ and are heading home! We are very happy to receive them on the ground. Thank you to the Government of Cambodia for making this possible,” the US embassy said on its Twitter account.
Holland America said it obtained permission to disembark the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew after twenty blood samples were negative after being examined yesterday in a Phnom Penh laboratory.
“We are pleased by the satisfactory resolution of this complex trip that was complicated by unfounded fears originated in erroneous information about the medical situation of the guests and crew of the ‘Westerdam,” the shipping company said in a statement.
The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, received the first passengers on the pier, who were presented with flowers and krama, the traditional Cambodian handkerchief, in an act broadcast live on all televisions in the country.
The president told the press that he authorized the arrival of the ship in Cambodia at the request of the US embassy and that he would have done so even if some of the passengers had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Several buses arrived at the dock to pick up the first hundred passengers and take them to Sihanoukville airport to return to their countries, the leader added.
Holland America added that it began to communicate to the passengers the data of its flights and that the repatriation process will last several days, during which the travelers will be able to remain lodged in the cruise.
The ship, which departed on day 1 of Hong Kong, was scheduled to arrive on Saturday in the Japanese city of Yokohama, but Japanese authorities denied entry after a person on board showed symptoms of being infected with the SARS-Cov- 2 from China.
Cambodia authorized the arrival of the cruise ship to its territory on Wednesday after it had been rejected by the authorities of Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam and Thailand.
Among the passengers are 651 Americans, 127 Britons, 91 Dutch and 57 Germans, as well as travelers from more than thirty countries, including Spain (7), Argentina (5), Brazil (5), Ecuador (5), Mexico (5) and Chile (3).
The “Westerdam” case occurred after the Japanese authorities quarantined another cruise ship, the “Diamond Princess”, where at least 218 of its 3,700 people on board have tested positive for the coronavirus.