Taiwanese Aboard MS Westerdam To Return Home

No Coronavirus Reported In Passenger Screening

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Two Taiwanese passengers aboard the Dutch registered MS Westerdam, now docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, will be quarantined once they return to Taiwan – as early as this weekend.

The Westerdam has been at sea for much of the last 14 days having left Hong Kong in early February on a two week tour of the region, but has been prevented from docking in four Asian nations, Taiwan (Kaohsiung) included, for fear of spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19)

On Friday morning, the ship disembarked its 1,455 passengers to a welcome by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen after they and 802 crew were screened for the virus. This comes amidst ongoing calls around the region to cancel ocean cruises altogether until the worst of the crisis is over.

However, according to Dr. Marc-Alain Widdowson, of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, in an interview with Al Jazeera “Cruise Ships are much less of a risk than for example planes for global spread of a virus (because) ships are usually at sea for several days, so this gives times for symptoms to show in people incubating the disease.”

Widdowson did though concede to Al Jazeera that “If someone is very sick on the sea, it is difficult to evacuate, (therefore), a cruise ship is a place for viruses and other microbes to rapidly spread.”

Authorities in Taipei have announced the two Taiwanese citizens from the Westerdam will be welcomed home providing they undergo quarantine and testing at hospital.

A week ago the SuperStar Aquarius was permitted to dock at Keelung in north Taiwan as around 1,600 of the the 1,750 passengers on board were Taiwanese, and all had tested negative for the virus.

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