By Chhorn Chansy
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – More passengers from a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia last week after being turned away at five other ports will fly home on Tuesday, following tests for the new coronavirus, the country’s prime minister said.
An American woman who had been on the Westerdam cruise ship tested positive for the virus at the weekend after a special flight chartered by the cruise line reached Malaysia, prompting renewed scrutiny for the hundreds of passengers and crew still on board or ashore in Cambodia.
“Today more than 300 tourists will fly from Phnom Penh to Dubai on a (Boeing) 777 airplane, I have learned from the ship’s crew,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech.
He said samples from the remaining passengers were being flown by helicopter for testing in the capital, Phnom Penh. Once health officials have confirmed negative results, the tourists will be allowed to disembark.
Holland America Line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said 255 guests and 747 crew are still aboard the Westerdam, which docked at the port of Sihanoukville on Friday, awaiting clearance.
“We anticipate this will take several days and greatly appreciate the thoroughness of all authorities involved in resolving this situation,” a statement from the cruise line said.
Another 406 passengers who had been transferred to Phnom Penh have tested negative for the infection.
“Cleared guests may travel home, and arrangements are being made for those guests,” the company statement said.
Some 1,455 passengers and 802 crew boarded the cruise ship when it set sail on Feb. 1 from Hong Kong.
The vessel spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand even though the ship said there were no coronavirus cases aboard.
(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Helen Popper)