There were joyous scenes and passengers kissed the ground having finally disembarked their cruise ship in Cambodia on Friday. Yet, Friday's jubilant mood has been soured after a shock diagnosis for coronavirus among passengers this weekend.

2200 cruisers on the MS Westerdam were stuck at sea with no port willing to grant the vessel permission to dock, over fears the ship was carrying Covid-19 coronavirus.

The ship had been rejected berth by port authorities in Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand as well as Japan, according to The Guardian.

In spite of cruise line Holland America's insistence that none of the ship's passengers or crew were infected, the vessel was turned away from docking at five separate countries.
Finally, after two weeks at sea, hundreds of relieved passengers were allowed off in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.


However, this weekend the Malaysian ministry of health confirmed a tourist who had been on the ship has since tested positive for the disease.

Noor Hisham Abdullah, the director general for the Malaysian health ministry, was quoted in The Guardian saying more should have been done when passengers disembarked in Cambodia:

"Only 20 passengers had their tests done. That was what we were told," he said. "The fact one case is positive, [means] all other passengers [have] exposure."

The 83-year-old passenger from the US was found to be infected with coronavirus, leading to difficult questions about disease containment.

She was one of 144 passengers who had flown on to Malaysia where their test results for the disease were to be reviewed. However, on Sunday, Malaysian authorities confirmed that one passenger was found to be carrying coronavirus.

The WHO initially had praised Cambodia's government for its decision to allow the ship to berth and also the actions of the Holland America cruise line for its cooperation with the US CDC.

However out of the over 100 passengers less than a fifth were tested for the disease, including the woman's husband who was later found not to be carrying the virus.
Holland America issued a statement that on 10 February saying all 2,257 passengers and crew had been tested and "not one person had an elevated temperature".

Westerdam passengers disembarked in high spirits on Friday. Photo / Paula Bronstein, Getty Images
Westerdam passengers disembarked in high spirits on Friday. Photo / Paula Bronstein, Getty Images

"Disembarking guests also completed a written health questionnaire and the passports of everyone onboard were reviewed to ensure no one had travelled through mainland China in the prior 14 days."


While at the time of arrival in Cambodia the cruise line had insisted there was no indication of Covid-19 on the ship, this positive test is a worrying development. For now, 236 passengers and 747 crew remain onboard the vessel.

"They haven't confirmed - locked - anything yet. But they have said that if they do, they will bring our 11 New Zealanders home," she said.

"Of course we will then make our own plans to have them relocated from Australia to New Zealand and then deal with public health quarantine issues from here."