PortandTerminal.com, February 17, 2020
Holland America defends the fact that there was at least one passenger on board the Westerdam with the coronavirus. “The passenger who tested positive never visited the ship’s medical center while on board”
BANGKOK, THAILAND – The Westerdam cruise ship, which is owned by Holland America Line, was denied entry by 5 countries amid concerns that it had cases of the coronavirus on board amidst its passengers and crew.
All the while, Holland America Line repeatedly assured the world that their cruise ship was virus-free.
“All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been.“
Holland America statement
By now you probably already know the punch-line to this bad joke. Cambodia agreed to let the passengers disembark from the Westerdam cruise ship a few days ago. As relieved and supposedly “virus-free” passengers started scattering to hotels and airports, eager to be going home, one of them was found to have the coronavirus. An 83-year old American woman.
How she got the virus is still unknown. The worst-case scenario is that she caught in from someone else on the Westerdam cruise ship and that she is not, in fact, an isolated case of infection on the Westerdam.
The seriousness of this can not be overstated. “We anticipated glitches, but I have to tell you I didn’t anticipate one of this magnitude,” commented Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
With more than a thousand passengers from the Westerdam headed for home, Dr. Schaffner said, it may be harder than ever to keep the coronavirus outbreak contained to China.
“This could be a turning point,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.
Making matters even worse, if that is somehow possible, is the ease with which the virus has possibly infected hundreds onboard the Westerdam. After all, passengers were told repeatedly that the cruise ship was virus free and so they acted accordingly – like passengers having a good time on a cruise ship.
Said one passenger on board the ship on February 11th, “The situation on board the Westerdam cruise liner is calm. Moreover, nobody is ill and no one is wearing masks”
No one is wearing masksWesterdam cruise ship passenger
Same virus, different cruise ship
The second-largest concentration of the coronavirus and highest infection rate in the world is on another cruise ship, the Carnival Princess. That ship is currently in quarantine off of the coast of Japan. Passengers on board are required to wear masks, keep their distance from each other, and stay largely confined to their rooms. And yet the virus continues to spread like an Australian bush-fire on the Carnival Princess despite the precautions being taken.
It begs the question of how widely did the virus spread on Holland America’s Westerdam cruise ship where none of those precautions was being observed?
Did Holland America know or suspect anything?
How could this happen? What, if anything, did Holland America know or suspect about the real state of their passengers’ health on board the Westerdam? Is this just sloppiness on their part?
Their defence at this point is that the woman who was found to be infected “never visited the ship’s medical center while on board” . That’s a pretty weak sounding defence from a cruise line that was adamantly claiming less than a week ago “All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been.”
There are only a few scenarios here for Holland America. Two of those scenarios are horrific; they knew and covered it up or they suspected and covered it up. The only other scenario is that was an honest mistake and that this one passenger who has tested positive for the virus fell through the cracks so to speak. Let’s go with option number three for now. It was an honest, horrible mistake.
None of it makes much difference now. At least one infected person was on board the Westerdam, that person did come into contact with other people who were taking no safety precautions and all of those people are out circulating in the world right as you read this.
“This could be a turning point”Dr. William Schaffner, Infectious Disease Specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Others though are less charitable when assessing Holland America’s handling of the situation on board the Westerdam.
When the story first broke, one passenger on the Westerdam, David Holst, shared via social media his doubts over Holland America’s claim that the cruise ship was virus-free. “They have assured us again there is no known virus on board. Personally I doubt they have the capability to test for it so “known” may be an ugly play on words”, Holst posted on his Facebook account.
Taking no chances, Thailand is denying entry to people who disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia. They were right in not allowing the Westerdam to disembark in Thailand. They are certainly right in not allowing entry to any of its passengers now into their country.
Other countries are scrambling to try and identify passengers from the Westerdam returning home. Too little, too late.
“It’s really daunting to control a situation like this now that people have gone all over the world,” Dr. Rabinowitz said.
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