A man walks past the Westerdam cruise ship docked in Sihanoukville port on February 15, 2020. Passengers on a cruise ship that was turned away from ports around Asia over fears they could be carrying the new coronavirus finally began disembarking in Cambodia on February 14.
AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy
Cruise passengers scatter, take Cambodia bus tours despite virus fears
(Agence France-Presse) - February 18, 2020 - 8:29am

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A scramble intensified Monday to trace passengers from a US cruise liner allowed to disembark in Cambodia despite at least one traveller later being diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.

There are fears scores of cruise goers have been scattered across the world without full health checks -- as Cambodia on Monday afternoon treated a few dozen of the passengers to bus tours around the capital Phnom Penh.

Passenger Christina Kerby, whose drole tweets as the Westerdam was bounced across ports drew widespread attention, admitted she "was surprised" to be allowed on a tour of the Cambodian capital before being given the complete all-clear from the virus. 

"I have young kids back home (in the US) and wouldn't want to risk infecting them or anyone around me if I am carrying the virus," she told AFP.

The Westerdam was at sea for two weeks during which it was barred from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand over fears it could be carrying the virus, which originated in China and has killed nearly 1,800 people.

On Thursday Cambodia, a staunch ally of Beijing, allowed the ship to dock at Sihanoukville.

It was met by the kingdom's bombastic premier, who hugged disembarking passengers as he swiftly latched on to the Westerdam's PR potential for a nation more often in the spotlight for human rights abuses.

His stance won applause from US President Donald Trump.

But three days later one Westerdam passenger, an 83-year-old American, was stopped on arrival in Malaysia and later diagnosed with the coronavirus.

On Monday Malaysia said over 130 other passengers who also took the flight with the sick American women left for the US, Europe and Australia and Hong Kong.

Thailand, a flight hub already used by scores of the Westerdam passengers, on Monday mulled a ban on transit by cruise goers, as the region played catch up to the risks posed by the boat.

"Passengers on ship are at risk and travel by airplane will cause risk to other passengers," health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday.

Cruise operator Holland America is working with national health authorities "to investigate and follow up with individuals who may have come in contact with the guest", chief medical officier Dr Grant Tarling said late Sunday.

'Harsh reality'

Yet health risks appeared secondary to authorities in Cambodia, a poor country with a threadbare medical system.

On Monday afternoon, passengers waiting for onward flights were gifted the bus tour of Phnom Penh.

Photos in government-aligned media showed them smiling, giving thumbs ups and none with a mask on.

"There were tons of media lining the street" Kerby said, adding she "was not expecting such a showing".

Another 233 passengers and 747 crew remain on the Westerdam, which is still docked at Sihanoukville. 

Authorities have been allowing them to leave the vessel in groups based on their flight bookings but those on board told AFP they are now not permitted to disembark.

A Sihanoukville spokesman said Monday health samples are being collected from all onboard the Westerdam "in order to be clear", adding that passengers will not go off-ship until the tests are completed.

China's foreign minister Wang Yi will meet Southeast Asian counterparts in late Laos this week to discuss the unprecedented health crisis, which has battered manufacturing and tourism across the region and led to an array of travel restrictions

In China more than 70,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus while about 900 infections have been reported in other countries.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 7, 2020 - 9:02am

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

April 7, 2020 - 9:02am

The US records 1,150 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University says, pushing the country's toll further above the 10,000 mark reached earlier in the day.

According to Johns Hopkins' running tally, there are more than 366,000 cases of new coronavirus in the United States — including in excess of 30,000 new cases in 24 hours — with total deaths at 10,783.

The US has by far the most number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world. The number of deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic has for the past several days increased by at least 1,000 per day and is gradually approaching the number of deaths in Italy (16,523) and Spain (13,005). — AFP

April 7, 2020 - 8:02am

The worldwide number of fatalities from the novel coronavirus rose to 73,139 on Monday, according to a tally compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT from official sources.

More than 1,310,930 declared cases have been registered in 191 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 249,700 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP offices from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are only testing the most serious cases.

Since 1900 GMT Sunday, 5,005 new deaths and 66,187 new cases were recorded worldwide. The United States has the highest number of new deaths with 1,209, followed by France with 833 and Spain with 637. — AFP

April 6, 2020 - 6:58pm

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 50,000 people in Europe, mostly in Italy, Spain, France and Britain, according to an AFP tally using official figures at 0945 GMT on Monday.

With a total of 50,209 deaths, Europe is the continent with the most COVID-19 fatalities, out of 675,580 declared cases. Hardest-hit Italy has 15,877 deaths and Spain 13,055.

France has reported 8,078 fatalities while Britain has 4,934. — AFP

April 6, 2020 - 4:53pm

The Philippines records an additional 414 cases of the new coronavirus, raising the national total to 3,660.

The Department of Health also confirms 11 COVID-19 patients died in the country, bringing the national toll to 163.

Nine new patients recovered from the virus, which brings the total number of recoveries to 73.

April 6, 2020 - 9:07am

More than 1,200 people have died of coronavirus complications in the United States in the past day, John Hopkins University says.

The Baltimore-based university, which has been keeping a running tally of global coronavirus numbers, says there are at least 337,072 confirmed infections in the US with 9,633 deaths. — AFP

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