A cruise ship passenger that was one of hundreds of people allowed to disembark in Cambodia was later found to be infected with the coronavirus. Now, questions are being raised about how well the passengers were screened before being allowed off the ship. Health officials are attempting to determine how big a problem they have.
The cruise ship, the Westerdam from the Holland America Line, set sail from Hong Kong on Feb. 1 carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members. It was supposed to be traveling on a 14-day cruise, but soon ran into trouble calling at ports due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The cruise ship had already been banned from docking at several ports before arriving in Cambodia for fear it might carry the coronavirus. Ports in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States territory of Guam all refused to let the ship dock, despite assurances from health officials that the Westerdam was disease free.
When the Westerdam arrived in Cambodia, the prime minister greeted its passengers with flowers. More than a thousand passengers disembarked and began to spread throughout the region. Some went sightseeing, visiting beaches and restaurants. Others headed for airports and traveled on to destinations around the world.
One passenger, an American, was found to have an elevated temperature by the thermal scanners at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia, where more than 140 passengers from the ship headed. She later tested positive for the virus. According to the cruise line, she did not visit the ship’s medical center during the cruise to report any symptoms of illness.
The woman, 83, and her husband, 85, also an American citizen, were both hospitalized and in isolation. The husband has been tested twice for the virus, and the results were negative both times. Some experts are now calling for tracking down all of the passengers from the Westerdam and quarantining them for two weeks to contain a broader spread of the virus.
The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, has infected about 68,000 people and killed more than 1,600 in China. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and seems to be moderately infectious, according to preliminary research. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could infect between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.