Twenty Americans with 'abnormal' health conditions on cruise ship spooked authorities

American on Westerdam cruise tested positive

American on Westerdam cruise tested positive

The Westerdam cruise ship operated by Holland America Line has finally been allowed to dock in Sihanoukville in Cambodia after being denied by multiple ports.

The coronavirus crisis, that originated in mainland China's Hubei province, is likely to have a long-lasting negative impact on the cruise industry, say observers, as the existence of the infection has forced several cruise lines to cancel trips and halt operations at Chinese ports. So far, about 175 people on the ship have come down with COVID-19, according to the latest update from Japanese health authorities.

Some 55,748 people are now undergoing treatment, while 1,380 people have died of the flu-like virus that emerged in Hubei province's capital, Wuhan, in December.

The new figures give no indication the outbreak is nearing a peak, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, an infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.

After that, the Dutch-flagged luxury liner was barred from docking in Manila, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, and, despite a request by US State Department, the American territory of Guam. The Kingdom of Cambodia doesn't just cooperate with China, but with all countries, he told the outlet.

Earlier on Friday, Japan claimed it would step up its testing and containment efforts in a bid to halt the outbreak's worrying growth.

The world's third-largest economy is already bracing for a sharp slowdown in growth and some analysts expect another contraction in the current quarter as the virus outbreak hurts exports, output and consumption through a sharp drop in overseas tourists.

"Investors will surely avoid Asia for the time being and will shift funds to the US, geographically the most separated from the region", said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Aboard another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, passengers were celebrating Valentine's Day in quarantine as they remained shipbound at the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

FTC Westerdam CRUISE-1581765914985

Hun Sen said: "Permission to dock reflects the eradication of the panic disease happening around the world".

The country's strongman premier, Hun Sen, flew in by helicopter to welcome passengers with flowers and scarves as they left the Westerdam cruise ship following two uncertain weeks at sea.

A senior Cambodian government official told Kyodo News that the decision to let the Westerdam cruise ship operated by Holland America Line to dock in the southwestern seaport of Sihanoukville was based on humanitarian grounds.

Holland America's chief executive officer Stein Kruse blamed "a bad and unfortunate misunderstanding" for keeping the ship at sea for so long, and said U.S. officials had worked closely with Cambodian counterparts to secure a resolution.

"We extend our deepest gratitude to President Trump, Cambodia's Honourable 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.

Twenty passengers had reported stomach aches or fever, but tests done at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh showed none had coronavirus.

The health ministry did not specify the nature of the respiratory illness, or specifically rule out the coronavirus. "Therefore, a cruise ship is a place for viruses and other microbes to rapidly spread". The ship had been denied passage by five countries.(Mark Remissa/AP).

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