The cruise ship, MS Westerdam, docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and passengers were allowed to disembark on Friday, including Weyburn couple Tom and Marilyn Schuck, who are now back home in Weyburn. (They are shown above during a stop in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.)
The ship had been turned away from five ports out of fear that people on board were infected with the coronavirus.
The Schucks were able to fly out of Phnom Penh on a third attempt after their first two times failed. For the first flight they had been booked for, the airline had no record of their tickets, and they had to wait for another flight.
They were finally able to board, and as of Tuesday were back home in Weyburn. Their joy at being has been tempered somewhat by a request to have no outside contact for a 10-day period, after they were informed by Holland America that a woman had tested positive for Covid-19, as the coronavirus is now called. The woman, a fellow passenger on the Westerdam, had mild symptoms and was hospitalized in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she had been on her way to the airport for her flight out.
In an email to the Review on Tuesday afternoon, Tom said, “Because we disembarked from the Westerdam ship the day before a women contracted the coronavirus, we were asked by our public health department to self-isolate for about 10 more days (which is 14 days after we disembarked). We can leave home and people can visit us, but it should be of some importance, and masked. It seems a bit much in light of the fact that it is very unlikely we had any contact with the infected passenger, as there were about 2,300 people on the ship.”
In a letter sent to the Schucks, the company explained that every one of the2,257 passengers and crew had been tested and cleared, with no one testing positive for Covid-19. The letter stated, “On Feb. 10, all 2,257 passengers and crew on board Westerdam were screened for illness including the taking of individual temperatures and no persons were identified with an elevated temperature. On disembarkation, all guests completed a written health questionnaire and underwent additional health screening. The 20 guests and crew who reported illness at some time during the 14 day voyage and that were reported to Cambodian Health Authorities, were tested for COVID-19. All results were confirmed negative and the results were reviewed by the U.S. CDC.”
Once the company was informed of the woman’s infection, they “immediately began working with our partners at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other national health authorities. We shared essential passenger travel data with them as is required by international law.
“Following standard protocol, the WHO issued a global notification to the relevant national health systems to investigate and follow-up with individuals who may have been exposed to the ill person.”
In an earlier statement, upon arriving in Cambodia, the company said, “We sincerely thank all those in Cambodia who have demonstrated a willingness to welcome us with an open mind and make decisions based on facts.”
The company also acknowledged the work of a number of leaders who had a part in helping get the cruise ship safely to a port, and the passengers able to get on shore to find their flights home.
“We are pleased with the successful resolution of this challenging journey that was complicated by unfounded fears stemming from erroneous information with respect to the medical condition of Westerdam’s guests and crew. This has all been a terrible and unfortunate misunderstanding that has impacted 2,257 people on board and hundreds of others shoreside who have worked 24/7 to get our guests home.”
The cruise liner has provided a full refund to all of the passengers for their cruises, and are paying for their flights home plus credit towards a future cruise.