WUHAN VIRUS/Two Taiwanese on board MS Westerdam cruise ship to be quarantined

02/13/2020 10:34 PM
Photo of the MS Westerdam by the Associated Press
Photo of the MS Westerdam by the Associated Press

Taipei, Feb. 13 (CNA) The two Taiwanese passengers on board the Dutch-registered MS Westerdam cruise ship will be quarantined at a local hospital once they return to Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Thursday.

The vessel, which had been stranded at sea for almost 14 days, finally docked in the port city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia Thursday morning with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members.

Operated by British/American-owned Holland America Line, the Westerdam left Hong Kong Feb. 1 on a 14-day cruise, but had been prevented from docking in four Asian countries, including Taiwan, and the US territory of Guam for fear of a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said the government had received a copy of the ship's passenger manifest which showed two Taiwanese nationals on board.

Those individuals will be quarantined upon their return and undergo further tests to ensure that they are not contagious, Chen said, adding the other foreign nationals on board the MS Westerdam will not be allowed to enter or transfer in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, CECC Deputy Commander Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), told CNA that the government is trying to contact the Taiwan nationals to learn about their current situation and when they plan to return to Taiwan.

According to the CECC, airline passengers who happen to be seated in the first two rows in front and behind either of the Taiwanese will be asked to conduct self-health management for 14 days after arriving in Taiwan.

Based on the CECC's interpretation, self-health management means people are advised to avoid going out, and if they must leave their home, they are advised to wear a surgical face mask at all times.

The Cambodian government will reportedly carry out blood tests on all the Westerdam passengers for the COVID-19 virus, although when the tests will be conducted has yet to be determined, Chuang said.

According to a blog post published Wednesday by the Holland America Line, all guests on board are healthy and there have been no known cases of coronavirus on board.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Wu Hsin-yun and Ko Lin)

Enditem/AW

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