PortandTerminal.com, February 7, 2020
At least 3 countries have turned away a cruise ship carrying more than 2,000 people over coronavirus fears — even though the crew insists no one on board is infected.
TOKYO, JAPAN – Holland America’s MS Westerdam has been prohibited from docking in Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe though said on Thursday that foreign passengers would not be allowed to disembark from the vessel, due to suspected coronavirus patients on board.
But Holland America, the owner of the cruise ship, said that is not the case. The Seattle-based cruise line said the ship is not in quarantine and there are no known cases of coronavirus onboard. On Friday the company issued a statement, part of which we have included below.
Guests on board Westerdam continue to be fully safe and secure. The ship is currently in a holding pattern off the coast of Japan, southeast of Okinawa, while we are working to finalize a new port of disembarkation. Please be assured that the ship is not in quarantine and we have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board despite media reports.Holland America Statement (February 6, 2020)
So who’s telling the truth? Holland America or Japan’s Prime Minister Abe?
One passenger on board the MS Westerdam, David Holst, has been sharing updates of the situation via Facebook. Here’s one of David’s recent posts that questions Holland America’s claim that the cruise ship is virus-free.
The start of panic?
The decision to refuse the Westerdam from Japan’s perspective is understandable if there is the slightest doubt about Holland America’s claim that the vessel is free of coronavirus.
Japan is already dealing with another foreign cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, that has been quarantined off of its coast. There are more than 3,700 people on board that ship, including 2,600 passengers, of whom 428 are American. So far, 61 passengers have tested positive for the virus, and the quarantine is expected to last until at least February 19.
But growing signs of panic are there. As of today, there are 31,529 confirmed cases of the virus and 638 deaths. A senior Chinese official has ordered authorities in the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, to immediately “round up all residents who have been infected” with the coronavirus and place them in isolation, quarantine or designated hospitals.
Set up a 24-hour duty system. During these wartime conditions, there must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame foreverSun Chunlan, a vice premier of China, discussing plans to check all residents in Wuhan for the virus
In other Asian countries, Singapore has now raised its coronavirus alert to the SARS level from 2002-2003. And on Thursday morning, Taiwan’s government announced that it is closing all ports to all international cruise vessels, effective immediately.
Where all of this leaves the Westerdam is unclear. With Taiwan having closed its ports, returning the “cruise ship that nobody wants” to Kaosiung in Taiwan where it set out from is now not a possibility.
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