Passengers Stay Aboard Cruise Ship For Two Weeks Over Coronavirus Fears

Passengers Stay Aboard Cruise Ship For Two Weeks Over Coronavirus Fears

Passengers on a cruise ship that was turned away from ports around Asia over fears they could be carrying the new coronavirus finally began disembarking in Cambodia on Friday.

Cambodia’s strongman premier Hun Sen welcomed around 100 tourists who were handed flowers and scarves as they stepped ashore after an uncertain two weeks at sea.

The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 2,257 passengers and crew on a 14-day cruise around East Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and ending on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.

But the vessel was barred by Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears it was carrying someone with a new virus that has now killed around 1,400 people and sickened 64,000, mostly in China.

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Cambodia — a staunch Beijing ally that receives huge sums of Chinese money every year — announced this week that the boat could dock in Sihanoukville.

Dozens of jubilant passengers took advantage of their new-found freedom and visited a nearby beach, while some hugged Hun Sen — Cambodia’s ruler for 35 years — as they disembarked. One man even kissed the ground.

“Cambodia pays more attention to human rights… we respect the rights of the more than 2,000 people on the boat,” Hun Sen said, relishing the rare positive focus on leadership more commonly hammered for rights abuses.

“We don’t have wealth like a rich country but we have sympathy for the passengers stranded on the ship.”

All passengers will be allowed to disembark, Hun Sen said, after no cases of the coronavirus were found aboard.

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