A cruise ship that had been stranded at sea for about two weeks after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears finally docked Thursday in Cambodia.
Cambodia agreed to let the MS Westerdam dock at the port of Sihanoukville after Thailand barred it on Wednesday, following similar bans by Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. They kept the ship away over concerns that it would expose them to the new virus from China.
The Westerdam was unwelcome elsewhere even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the COVID-19 viral illness have been confirmed among its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members.
The ship initially anchored offshore, where a team of health officials began checks. It then moved at sunset to a berth at the port in the Gulf of Thailand.
Landed! passenger Lydia Miller, who runs a small farm and inn in Washington State, exclaimed on Twitter. Thank you Cambodia! You believed in us when no one else would. We promise to spend lots of money in your country. #westerdam Once health checks and immigration procedures are completed, the passengers are to disembark and be taken to Sihanoukville airport, from where they will fly to the capital, Phnom Penh, to catch flights home.
Some 20 passengers have reported stomachaches or fever, Cambodian health officials said. The ship's health staff considered them to be normal illnesses, but the ill passengers were being isolated from others, Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said.
A military helicopter was used to carry samples from those passengers to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh for analysis.
She said if tests show that any passengers have the disease, they'll be allowed to receive treatment in the country.
A team from the US Embassy with consular, logistics and health personnel was on site to assist US citizens.
From the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, we will stick with you as long as it takes, U.S. Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy said a a video posted online. Personnel from several European embassies were also at the scene.
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