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.

2019 NCOV CAMBODIA COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 26, 2020 - 4:50pm

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

May 26, 2020 - 4:50pm

The Department of Health announces that a total of 14,669 individuals have contracted the coronavirus disease, with the agency reporting 350 new cases.

There are 89 new recoveries and 13 new deaths.

May 26, 2020 - 9:03am

The US coronavirus death toll has risen by 532 over the past 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University tracker said Monday.

After that relatively small increase, the US toll now stands at 98,218 lives as of 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Tuesday), according to the Baltimore-based university, and US cases of infection now number 1,662,375. 

Both are the highest anywhere in the world. — AFP

May 26, 2020 - 7:21am

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 344,107 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT on Monday.

The drop in the total numbers of deaths is due to Spain's revision of its toll downwards by nearly 2,000.

At least 5,453,650 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 2,133,900 are now considered recovered. — AFP

May 25, 2020 - 9:30am

The US coronavirus death toll has risen by 638 over the past 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University tracker reported Sunday night.

After that relatively small increase, the US toll now stands at 97,686 lives as of 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday), according to the Baltimore-based university, and US cases of infection now number 1,641,585. — AFP

May 25, 2020 - 9:20am

The US coronavirus death toll has risen by 638 over the past 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University tracker reported Sunday night.

After that relatively small increase, the US toll now stands at 97,686 lives as of 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday), according to the Baltimore-based university, and US cases of infection now number 1,641,585. — AFP

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