Cambodia PM greets passengers from cruise ship shunned over Covid-19 fears

Cambodia PM greets passengers from cruise ship shunned over Covid-19 fears

Cambodia PM greets passengers from cruise ship shunned over Covid-19 fears

Although none of the more than 2,000 passengers and crew on board the Westerdam were diagnosed with the deadly virus, worldwide panic over the disease's spread pushed Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA territory of Guam to deny the ship's entry into their ports.

Vietnam on Friday turned away two ships from docking, citing the need to prevent the virus from entering the country.

The boat was unwelcome even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the Covid-19 viral illness had been confirmed among its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members. Cruise liner Norwegian Jade, which was scheduled to board in Hong Kong, switched port to Singapore.

"Landed!" passenger Lydia Miller, who runs a small farm and inn in Washington State, exclaimed on Twitter. "We have to think why other countries rejected the ship".

"We extend our deepest gratitude to President Trump, Cambodia's Honorable Prime Minister Hun Sen, Canadian Foreign Minister [François-Philippe] Champagne, elected officials across the country and governments around the world for providing support and being effective allies in bringing our guests home", Mr Kruse said in a statement.

The ship's captain Vincent Smit said the ship would anchor outside Sihanoukville to allow authorities to conduct health checks on board.

After tests, no one on board was found to be carrying the virus, Cambodia's health ministry said. People aboard all flights from Phnom Penh will be checked.

Holland America said 20 passengers and crew were screened for coronavirus "out of an abundance of caution" but all results came back negative. If necessary they will be assisted by employees of the Russian Embassy.

"We know this is confusing for our guests and their families and we greatly appreciate their patience", the company said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen greeted passengers as they left the ship.

Holland America Line tweeted that "Westerdam is now sailing for Sihanoukville, Cambodia, arriving at 7am local time on Feb 13 & will remain in port for several days for disembarkation".

A strong supporter of China, he has played down any threat from the new virus and even threatened to kick out reporters or officials seen wearing protective face masks.

The motives of the action are to eliminate fear and discrimination, the PM said.

"This is an example of worldwide solidarity we have been consistently calling for", Tedros said ahead of the ship's arrival.

He added that the passengers are allowed to freely go ashore and travel to other parts of Cambodia before departing the country. The vast majority of the cases are in mainland China, where the virus first began in the Hubei province.

"If no one allows entry, Cambodia does".

The apparent act of compassion over the Westerdam by Hun Sen follows the partial withdrawal by the European Union of trade benefits to some Cambodian industries over the kingdom's woeful rights record. "Coronavirus is a global challenge, and. our humanitarian affairs have no borders".

The Westerdam HS was supposed to be taking some 2,200 holiday-makers and crew on a two week cruise around Asia, beginning in Hong Kong and ending on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.

In the last 24 hours, China has reported more than 5000 new Coronavirus cases, and 121 new deaths.

This is while Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said he was pleased Cambodia had accepted the ship, calling it an "example of global solidarity".

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