Cambodian PM welcomes passengers disembarked from cruise ship after all test negative for COVID-19

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-14 20:28:58|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen speaks as he greets passengers onboard the Westerdam cruise ship at southwest Cambodia's sea port of Sihanoukville on Feb. 14, 2020. The cruise ship, which had been turned away over fears of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, docked at Sihanoukville port on Thursday. (Photo by Li Lay/Xinhua)

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Friday welcomed passengers disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship in southwest Cambodia's Sihanoukville after all had tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

In a live broadcast on the state-run National Television of Cambodia, Hun Sen shook hands with the passengers and presented each of them a rose.

The prime minister said his act sent a message to the world to eliminate discrimination and fear over the disease, recently dubbed COVID-19.

"I would like to send this message to the Cambodian people as well as to the international community that this time is not the time of fear and discrimination, but it is the time of solidarity," he noted.

Hun Sen said about 100 passengers took flights to their home countries today (Friday), and the rest would leave later based on their flight schedules.

All passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship, and they could visit Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap Province while waiting for their flights, he added.

The cruise ship, carrying 1,455 passengers and a crew of 802, had been turned away in some ports due to fears over the novel coronavirus, docked at southwest Cambodia's sea port of Sihanoukville Thursday.

According to a statement released by the Cambodian Health Ministry late Thursday, 20 out of the passengers had been ill, and their samples taken to the Pasteur Institute test found that all were negative for the novel coronavirus.

Holland America Line, the cruise ship operator, said in a press release Friday that the company sincerely thanked Cambodia for welcoming the ship with an open mind.

"We are pleased with the successful resolution of this challenging journey that was complicated by unfounded fears stemming from erroneous information with respect to the medical condition of Westerdam's guests and crew," said Stein Kruse, chief executive officer of the company.

The ship will stay at the port until next Monday for disembarkation.

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