The 2,257 passengers and crew onboard the Westerdam luxury liner are in limbo once again after Thailand became the latest country to turn the ship away from its ports, leaving guests desperate to disembark after almost two weeks at sea.
Fearing that some passengers aboard the Westerdam may be infected with the deadly new coronavirus, Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced Tuesday in a Facebook post that he’s directed authorities not to let them disembark. The statement was confirmed by other Thai officials.
The World Health Organization seemed to offer a ray of hope — saying that health authorities may try to board the ship to assess the passengers’ health to see whether they may be allowed to get off the ship in Thailand.
Operated by Holland America Line, a brand owned by Miami-based cruise giant Carnival Corp., the ship has been refused entry by four other countries or territories, according to the WHO. Ports in Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam have sent it away on concerns over the virus, which has killed more than 1,000 people since it was first reported late last year in Wuhan, China.
The refusal and quarantine of cruise ships are the latest stepped-up measures by governments around the world struggle to contain the outbreak. Carnival’s Diamond Princess and its 3,700 passengers are quarantined in the port of Yokohama, Japan, as authorities battle an increasing number of infections onboard.
The WHO said Thai officials have indicated that if the ship enters the country’s waters, “authorities may seek to board the ship to determine the health status of passengers and crew, to determine whether they would be allowed to eventually disembark in Thailand,” according to a statement. The ship is currently off the southern coat of Vietnam, according to the WHO and Bloomberg data.
On board the Westerdam, passenger Stephen Hansen said he was relieved when travelers were initially told Monday that they would be allowed to disembark in Thailand. Guests scrambled to rebook flights home and everyone had their temperatures taken. By Tuesday morning, they learned from media reports that Thailand had refused the ship.