Ghebreyesus said Cambodia's move "is a welcome act of solidarity at a time when the world has a window of opportunity to stop COVID-2019".
Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Guam and now Thailand have all refused the Holland America cruise ship with fears of the Coronavirus outbreak which has already infected 45,000 people around the world and killed over 1,100. Thai authorities, however, denied permission for the ship to dock, citing precautionary measures against the coronavirus outbreak.
Cambodia receives billions of dollars in soft loans, infrastructure, and investment from China, which dispenses it with no questions asked over human rights abuses in the country.
The ship was on a 14-day Taiwan-Japan cruise.
Separately, we were not able to call at Manila, the Philippines, on February 3 due to a new policy prohibiting any ship with guests that had passed through China, Macau or Hong Kong in the prior 14 days. Of the number, 687 passengers were to continue sailing from February 1 and arrive in Yokohama, Japan, on February 15 for the next embarkation, Holland America Line said. The MS Westerdam than attempted to dock at ports in the other countries, but this too was rejected.
The ship has 650 Americans on board and has finally been allowed to dock in Cambodia today.
The Westerdam cruise ship, as seen in an image released by Holland America Line.
Thailand turned the Westerdam away even after the operator said it had no reason to believe there were any cases of the deadly virus on board. Guests will be able to go ashore. "All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support", the statement continued.
After disembarking, the passengers will take charter flights from Sihanoukville airport to Phnom Penh for their forward flights home. "This also covers visitors by land from Cambodia", he said. "This has all been a awful and unfortunate misunderstanding that has impacted 2,257 people onboard and hundreds of others shoreside who have worked 24/7 to get our guests home".
"We greatly appreciated that Cambodia offered assistance to the Westerdam. The safety of Americans overseas is my highest priority", he said, adding that his embassy team was now in Sihanoukville to assist the authorities with disembarking and the transfer to the next destination.
He said the Cambodian authorities were conducting screening that may take some time to complete, and this requires patience and cooperation.
"Thank you to Cambodia for your compassion and generosity during this very hard time", Ms Kerby added.
Meantime, US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg told The Post: "We are greatly appreciative of Cambodia's efforts and assistance, and its hospitality during this hard time".
Last week, passengers on a World Dream cruise in Hong Kong were held for four days after the company learned that three passengers who had sailed on the vessel earlier were confirmed to have the virus. The Westerdam departed from Hong Kong early this month with more than 2,000 people on board and was refused entry by Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, the United States territory of Guam and Thailand over fears of Covid-19 transmission.
Pierre Boucher, one of the passengers on the ship, said passengers were told to fill out medical information forms in order to obtain visas, for which Holland America Line paid. First, they would be transferred by buses to Sihanoukville worldwide airport for their flight to the Phnom Penh global Airport.
"Genting Cruise Lines can confirm that, due to the impact that the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has had on the economy of Hong Kong and the travel restrictions that have affected the operations of the company, Genting Cruise Lines has had to make the hard decision to adjust salaries by 20 [percent] to 50 percent for middle managers and above", a company spokesperson told GGRAsia in an emailed reply on Thursday. The man, who works as a tour guide, recently tested negative for the virus.
He said five to six flights could have been made with each flight accommodating up to 180 passengers.