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Westerdam passenger ‘never had’ Covid-19

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Passengers from MS Westerdam in a bus tour of Phnom Penh last week. Supplied

Westerdam passenger ‘never had’ Covid-19

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the US citizen that allegedly tested positive in Malaysia after travelling on the Westerdam was never infected with Covid-19 in the first place.

In an article published in the newspaper USA Today on Friday, CDC spokesperson Richard Quartarone said the 83-year-old American woman “never had coronavirus to our knowledge”.

Cambodian Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng on Sunday thanked the CDC for sharing the information.

“This news is evidence that the handling of the MS Westerdam passengers and crew followed international standards,” Bun Heng said in a post on the ministry’s Facebook page.

He noted that all tests for Covid-19 in Cambodia were conducted at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge.

Two weeks ago, Cambodia allowed the Westerdam, a cruise ship carrying more than 2,200 passengers and crew from 41 countries, to dock at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port. The ship had been denied access to ports in five countries before Cambodia welcomed it on humanitarian grounds.

Everyone onboard the Westerdam was tested for Covid-19, and no one was shown to carry the virus. However, the American woman allegedly tested positive while in Kuala Lumpur for her trip back home.

On Saturday, Malaysia’s Director-General of Health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah issued a press statement explaining the case. He reaffirmed Malaysia’s official position that the woman tested positive for the virus in the two initial tests.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, the woman recovered after 72 hours of treatment.

“Then we repeated the tests, and this time they came back negative. We did two tests, 24 hours apart,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

Hun Sen’s decision to allow the Westerdam to dock in Cambodia received praise from various institutions and leaders, including US President Donald Trump and World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, among others.

However, the decision was also criticised as “irresponsible”.

The CDC’s announcement on Friday validated Hun Sen. On his Facebook page on Saturday, he said Cambodia had been unfairly criticised for its humanitarian act by “irresponsible foreigners”.

“Now, Cambodia gets justice. Now, everything is clear. None of the Westerdam passengers carried Covid-19.

“As for myself, I am playing golf at City Golf in Phnom Penh. I am not in a hospital in Singapore like some people have been saying,” Hun Sen said.

On Friday, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said in a press conference at the Office of the Council of Ministers that the Westerdam will leave Sihanoukville on Tuesday.

He said the last 142 passengers, who were all staying at Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel, were due to leave the Kingdom that same night or the next day. Staff at the hotel told The Post on Saturday that all passengers had already left.

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