Malaysia says American from cruise ship docked in Cambodia tests positive for coronavirus

Passengers disembarking from the Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Feb 15, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR/SIHANOUKVILLE, CAMBODIA (REUTERS) - An 83-year-old American woman who had been a passenger on a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia after being shunned by other countries has tested positive for the new coronavirus in Malaysia, health authorities said on Saturday (Feb 15).

She was the first passenger on the MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, to test positive for the virus.

The ship docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.

The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China.

The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement, adding that she was in stable condition.

The woman's husband had shown symptoms but tested negative, it said. The couple were the only ones of the 145 to show symptoms, the ministry said.

A spokesman for Holland America declined to comment.

Or Vandine, Secretary of State at Cambodia's Health Ministry, also declined to comment.

US President Donald Trump has thanked Cambodia for taking in the ship in a rare message to a country that is one of China's closest allies and has often been at odds with Washington.

Cruise ships around Asia face widespread fears they may be spreading the virus. The biggest cluster outside China has been on the Diamond Princess, quarantined off Japan's Yokohama. Out of about 3,700 passengers and crew on board, 285 people have tested positive and have been sent to hospital.

Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday.

The American woman's case brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Malaysia to 22.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.