Cruise ship shunned over coronavirus arrives home in Cambodia

A cruise ship, which had been turned away over fears of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, docked at southwest Cambodia's seaport of Sihanoukville on Thursday, said the port chief.

The Westerdam cruise ship, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, had been turned away by Thailand, Japan, China's Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines due to fears over the disease, recently dubbed COVID-19.

"The ship arrived at the port around 7 a.m. (1500 GMT) following a permit from Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen," Sihanoukville Autonomous Port's director-general Lou Kim Chhun told Xinhua via telephone.

Health experts have been sent onto the ship to provide health checks to the passengers before they are allowed to disembark the ship, he said.

Holland America Line, the cruise ship operator, said in a statement on Wednesday that the ship will stay in port for several days for disembarkation.

"Guests will disembark in Sihanoukville over the next few days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forward travel home," the statement said.

"All guests onboard are healthy and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been." 

Hun Sen said on Wednesday that the Southeast Asian country made a "humanitarian" decision to permit the ship to dock amid the "emergency", saying that he hoped his decision would help eliminate discrimination and panic over the COVID-19.

All passengers will be provided visa free-of-charge. 

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