Topline: A cruise ship that was turned away from several ports in Asia over coronavirus fears—despite no cases onboard—will now dock in Cambodia after days of uncertainty and mounting anxiety among passengers.
- The Holland America Line’s MS Westerdam was banned from docking by Thailand earlier this week, over concerns about coronavirus on the ship. Holland America Line, which is owned by Carnival Cruise, says nobody onboard has reported symptoms.
- It will now dock in Sihanoukville in Cambodia on Thursday, where passengers will disembark over a few day and will be transported to the capital, Phnom Penh, and flown home. Holland America Line says it will pay for the flight sand refund passengers their entire trip.
- The MS Westerdam had planned to disembark its passengers in Thailand after Japan, The Philippines and Guam turned away the cruise ship. The Thai government on Tuesday offered fuel, food, and medicine to the cruise ship.
- Stephen Hansen and his wife are two of the 1,500 passengers stuck on the vessel, which sailed from Hong Kong on February 1st and had been scheduled to end its cruise in Japan on February 15.
- Hansen told Forbes: “While I can understand that countries want to protect their own citizens first before helping us their decisions to turn us away are based more on misinformation and fear than facts.”
- Holland America said in a statement on Wednesday: “All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support…All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been.”
- Passengers had been calling for political intervention, with Hansen saying that the countries’ decision to reject the vessel was down to “misinformation and fear,” rather than facts.
Key background: Cruise ships have become an unlikely flashpoint in the battle to stop the international spread of the coronavirus. The British-owned Diamond Princess cruise was quarantined in Tokyo last Monday, with 174 out of the 3,700 passengers on board now ill with the pneumonia-like illness. Around 3,600 passengers and crew were held aboard the World Dream cruise ship for four days in Hong Kong over concerns the ship staff had contracted the virus from infected passengers on an earlier cruise. Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade organization, announced last week its members would bar passengers who had visited China, Hong Kong, or Macau, 14 days before their cruise, from boarding.
News peg: Coronavirus, this week renamed Covid-19, has now killed more than 1,000 people and infected at least 42,000 more. The outbreak is concentrated in mainland China, after the virus was first detected in patients who are thought to have visited a Wuhan market in December. Airlines have also been badly disrupted, with some international carriers suspended their flights to and from China, and a number of international companies and manufacturers have been impacted by the Chinese government’s move to extend the Lunar new year holiday in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus. Tens of millions were placed under lockdown by Chinese health authorities in cities like Wuhan that have seen the highest number of reported cases.
I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night reporter at the Guardian. I studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where I was a writer and editor for one of the university’s global affairs magazines, the London Globalist. That led me to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed my M.A. in Journalism. Got a story? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter @bissieness. I look forward to hearing from you.