Cruise Ship Stranded at Sea Over Coronavirus Fears, Denied Entry by Several Countries

February 11, 2020 Updated: February 11, 2020
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Thailand’s government has turned away a Holland America cruise ship on Tuesday, just hours after the firm announced that it would be able to disembark in Bangkok—making it the fifth time a country or territory has denied it entry amid fears that someone on board might have coronavirus.

Thai Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate wrote on social media that the ship cannot dock in the country, but he said Thailand “will gladly help provide fuel, medicine, and food” so the Westerdam can “reach its destination safely.”

“I have issued orders. Permission to dock refused,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul also confirmed in a Facebook post, reported Reuters.

Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and the U.S. territory of Guam have all prohibited Holland America’s Westerdam from docking on their shores amid fears of the virus. Holland America, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp., said that it has no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board the ship, which has reportedly sickened tens of thousands of people inside China.

In a statement on Monday, Holland America said the Westerdam is heading to Laem Chabang in Bangkok before disembarking on Thursday. On Twitter, the company wrote that it heard reports about the status of its call to Laem Chabang and is “actively working this matter.”

“The ship is not in quarantine and we have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board despite media reports,” the company said in a statement last week. “The ship has sufficient fuel and food provisions to last until the end of the voyage. We are providing free internet and phone access for guests and crew to stay in contact with their loved ones. Guests have been provided a full refund and a future cruise credit.”

Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, with 3,700 passengers and crew on board, is currently quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, and at least 135 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on the Carnival Corp.-owned vessel. Yet another, the World Dream, is being held in Hong Kong after it was linked to three cases. Passengers and crew were later allowed to disembark after testing negative for the virus, CNA reported.

The World Health Organization, confirming that Thailand won’t allow the Westerdam to dock, said that Thai “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” if it enters the country’s waters.

The ship is currently sailing off the coast of southern Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization. It has 1,455 guests and 802 crew members on board.

A woman who claims to be on the Westerdam wrote on Twitter that after being rejected a fifth time, “I can understand how despair can set in when hope is dashed.” Another woman also reportedly aboard the ship wrote on Twitter: “Oh no… looks like Thailand are not letting us in.”

Passenger Christina Kerby wrote that she has learned how to fold bath towels into shapes. “I am growing increasingly desperate onboard the ms #Westerdam #cruise. It appears I’m continuing to gain weight despite completely eliminating lunch dessert,” she also said.

Holland America said that the ship was supposed to disembark at Yokohama on Feb. 15, and it has sufficient fuel and food to last until the end of the voyage. However, after that, it’s not clear.