A Dutch cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, has been stuck in the South China Sea for eight days as on Tuesday due to difficulties finding a port to dock at amid coronavirus fear.
This news comes despite widespread reports that no cases of the viral pneumonia have been reported in the 2,200 passengers on board the ship.
Despite this, on Tuesday Thailand became the latest to ban the ship from docking, after Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam had also refused to allow the ship to dock. The Thai authorities had initially given permission for the ship to anchor in Bangkok but Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul reversed this position in a Facebook post.
The Netherlands and the United States are working together to find a solution to get the 1,455 holidaymakers and 802 crew members out of this uncomfortable situation. For the time being, food and fuel reserves are still sufficient, The Hague said in a statement.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said health authorities could board the ship to monitor the health of passengers, which would allow the cruise ship to obtain permission to dock in Thailand.
A Belgian couple is among the passengers, alongside some 90 Dutch people. “It was to be a dream cruise with five stopovers, including Mount Fuji in Japan. A dream cruise that turned into a morose accumulation of miles at sea,” the couple told the Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper on Tuesday.
The fear of welcoming the Westerdam is fuelled by the case of the Diamond Princess, on which around 130 people tested positive for the coronavirus. The cruise ship has been quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo. The 3,700 passengers were asked not to leave their cabins.