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(By Matt Surrusco, dpa)

Phnom Penh (dpa) – Some 260 people were allowed to leave a luxury cruise ship in Cambodia on Friday, after it was turned away by several Asian nations over fears that passengers could be carrying coronavirus…

Officials had tested 20 people on board for coronavirus, in what the cruise line Holland America said was “out of an abundance of caution,” adding that all tests came back negative.

On Friday morning, the first group were allowed to leave the ship in the coastal city of Sihanoukville, where it had docked on Thursday.

They then flew on to the Cambodian capital Phnom Pehn prior to onward travel, said Kheang Phearum, a provincial government spokesman.

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About 150 more people were expected to fly from Sihanoukville to Kuala Lumpur on Friday afternoon, Phearum said.

The Holland America Line’s Westerdam docked in the Cambodian port late Thursday after being refused access to dock by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Thailand over fears that people aboard may have contracted the new strain of the virus.

It came after more than 40 people on another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan, tested positive for the virus. A German cruise ship has also been refused permission to dock at a port in northern Vietnam, despite having no known cases of the virus among its passengers.

Passengers react after they disembark from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Holland America said the Westerdam was carrying 1,455 guests and 802 crew members

It left Hong Kong on February 1.

Around 70 to 80 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in Cambodia since January 10, including the 20 people aboard the ship, Cambodian Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said.

Only one person, a Chinese man, tested positive for the new viral strain, and he recovered and left the country.

Vandine estimated 11 to 20 Cambodians had been tested, while the rest were foreigners, mostly from China, where the disease was first detected.

The new coronavirus has infected tens of thousands in China and killed more than 1,300 there, as well as spreading to around two dozen countries.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led Cambodia for 35 years, welcomed disembarking passengers at the Sihanoukville port on Friday.

While none of the 20 people tested had the virus, Hun Sen said if anyone onboard was infected he would allow them to enter the country “as quickly as possible” to receive treatment.

“We don’t have great wealth like rich countries but we have sympathy to save those who are trapped on the ship,” he said.

“If we were on the ship like them, how sad would we feel when we arrived at a place that denied us?”

The European Union delegation in Cambodia said in a statement that 260 EU citizens from 20 nations were among the 2,257 people on board.


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Author: ANA Newswire

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