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The Start of Panic? Virus-Free Cruise Ship Denied Entry to Ports

Coronavirus PANIC: Brawls erupt in Hong Kong as hundreds scramble to buy face masks. There are growing signs that panic is starting to set in as the number of coronavirus cases tops 31,000.

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.

Holland America's cruise ship MS Westerdam shown at sea
Holland America’s MS Westerdam has been prohibited from docking in Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

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)

Click here to read their full statement.

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.

Today12.00 update from the CaptainIn Holding Pattern still ( i think that means going in circles)No one wants…

Posted by David Holst on Thursday, February 6, 2020

The start of panic?

Cruise ship at night with helicopter flying overhead and small vessel moored along side it.
The Diamond Princess is quarantined off of Japan’s coast with 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus on board. The quarantine is expected to last until at least February 19.

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.

READ: Another 10 infections on cruise ship in Japan; passengers confined to cabins

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 forever

Sun Chunlan, a vice premier of China, discussing plans to check all residents in Wuhan for the virus

 Chilling pictures of bloodied corpses of cats and dogs lying on the road in China have been doing the rounds on social media following bogus claims that deadly coronavirus can be transmitted by animals.  Soon after the rumours spread, the panicked pet owners reportedly pushed the dogs and cats from the high-rise apartments.

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.

READ: Coronavirus. How bad are things going to get?

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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