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Passengers disembark in Cambodia from cruise amid COVID-19 fears

Phnom Penh, Feb 14 (IANS) Passengers of a cruise ship that had been denied entry into several countries over fears that the people on board were infected with the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19), disembarked in Cambodia on Friday after authorities confirmed they were healthy.

The Westerdam, of the Holland America Line shipping company, docked at the Sihanoukville port, a day after it anchored off the coast, reports Efe news.

“The first passengers are off the Westerdam and headed home. We’re happy to greet them as they step onto dry land. Thank you to the government of Cambodia who helped this happen,” the US embassy said in a tweet.

Holland America said it obtained permission to disembark the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew after 20 blood samples were tested to be negative after being examined on Thursday in a Phnom Penh laboratory.

“We are pleased with the successful resolution of this challenging journey that was complicated by unfounded fears stemming from erroneous information with respect to the medical condition of Westerdam’s guests and crew,” the shipping company said in a statement.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen received the first passengers on the pier, who were presented with flowers and ‘krama’, a traditional Cambodian handkerchief.

Hun Sen told the media 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 passengers had tested positive for COVID-19.

The ship, which departed on February 1 from Hong Kong, was scheduled to arrive on Saturday in the Japanese city of Yokohama, but authorities denied entry after a person on board showed symptoms of being infected with the illness.

Cambodia authorized the ship’s arrival to its territory on Wednesday after it had been rejected by 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 30 countries, including Spain (seven), Argentina (five), Brazil (five), Ecuador (five), Mexico (five) and Chile (three).

The Westerdam’s incident comes as Japanese authorities have quarantined another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, in Yokohama with at least 218 of its 3,700 people on board having tested positive for COVID-19.

–IANS

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