Thailand bars cruise ship amid coronavirus fears


Posted at Feb 11 2020 11:12 AM

Buddhist monks use face masks as they pray at the Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple during a ceremony to commemorate Makha Bucha Day outside Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 8, 2020. Chalinee Thirasupa, Reuters

BANGKOK - Thailand has barred passengers from Holland America's cruise ship MS Westerdam from disembarking, its health minister said Tuesday, the latest country to turn it away amid fears of the coronavirus despite no confirmed infections aboard.

The company, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp, had said on Monday that passengers would disembark in Bangkok on Feb. 13 and that there was no reason to believe anybody aboard had the virus.

"I have issued orders. Permission to dock refused," Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a Facebook post.

The Westerdam has already been turned away from several countries, including Japan, the Philippines and Thailand, amid fears of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,000 people and infected more than 40,000 since it was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan less than 2 months ago

Holland America says no one on board has the virus. Media reports say it carries 1,455 passengers and 802 crew; its original destination was Yokohama, Japan, which refused it permission to dock.

"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.

It had earlier said the Westerdam was sailing toward Bangkok, and it is not immediately clear whether the ship would change course.

Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, with 3,700 passengers and crew on board, is quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, with 135 cases of coronavirus detected on the Carnival Corp-owned vessel.

Most of the coronavirus cases have been inside China, but there have been 319 cases in 24 other countries, including 1 death, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.