Scramble to track Cambodia cruise ship passengers after coronavirus case reported

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (Reuters) – Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia.

FILE PHOTO: The cruise ship MS Westerdam at dock in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Tostevin/File Photo

The cruise line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said none of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew have reported any symptoms.

“Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information,” a statement from the company said.

Passengers had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities after health checks when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.

But on Saturday, Malaysia said an American woman who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday on a chartered flight had tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,700 people, the vast majority in China.

The woman’s husband tested negative for the coronavirus.

About 137 of the 145 passengers on the chartered flight had already left for other countries as of Sunday after showing no signs of illness, Malaysian authorities said.

Dozens more of the Westerdam passengers had flown through Thailand and onward to other countries, Thai officials said.

At least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said. Others were in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Holland America said it is working with health officials in Malaysia and Cambodia and experts in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“These experts are working with the appropriate national health authorities to investigate and follow-up with individuals who may have come in contact with the guest,” said Dr. Grant Tarling, Chief Medical Officer for Holland America Line.

Several hundred other passengers who left the ship are still in Cambodia, according to passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.

“I believe there’s 300 Americans here at this hotel plus a few hundred from other countries. We will all be tested for the coronavirus today and tomorrow by the Cambodian Ministry of Health,” Rauen told Reuters on Sunday.

“We have no idea when we get to get home but Holland America is working on all of our flight reservations. We have ambassadors from the U.S. Embassy here in Phnom Penh as well as from Australia and other countries to help people figure out what to do,” she said.

Additional reporting by Ebrahim Harris in Kuala Lumpur and Orathai Sriring and Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Lincoln Feast

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