GENEVA – The World Health Organization thanked Cambodia on Friday for accepting a cruise ship after it was rejected by several Asian countries due to the risk passengers were infected with coronavirus.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the country for allowing the Westerdam vessel to dock and showing “international solidarity” when other nations did not.
“I wish to thank Cambodia, especially the prime minister, for demonstrating to the world the meaning of solidarity,” Tedros said in a videoconference from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is on an official trip.
“While other countries turned away the Westerdam cruise ship, Cambodia allowed it to dock.
“Today hundreds of passengers are disembarking and are en route to their home countries.”
He added: “Twenty passengers who reported signs of illness have tested negative for the coronavirus COVID-19.
“I hope that other countries will follow Cambodia’s lead.”
He urged the international community to pull together in the fight against the deadly virus and added: “This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”
The MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, was denied permission to dock by Thailand, Kapan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam after passengers showed possible symptoms of coronavirus.
The ship, which had 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board, departed on 1 February from Hong Kong and was scheduled to arrive on Saturday in the Japanese city of Yokohama.
There are 49,070 cases of the disease worldwide, with the vast majority – 48,548 – in China.
There have been 1,383 deaths which have all been in mainland China apart from three, one each in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan, according to the latest WHO figures.
A team of WHO experts will travel to the Asian country to carry out analysis, together with their Chinese counterparts, on the response to the epidemic and the impact it has had there.
Elderly people with health complications were allowed to disembark another cruise ship in quarantine at Yokohama, Japan, on Friday after hundreds of its of passengers contracted the virus.