Hunt for Westerdam passengers after shock positive virus test in Malaysia

Health authorities on Monday February 17th were attempting to track down hundreds of passengers who disembarked from cruise ship Westerdam (IMO 9226891)in Cambodia last week after an American woman who had previously tested negative for Covid-19 tested positive upon arrival in Malaysia. She had passed the currently required incubation period of 14 days.

Nearly 200 passengers from the Westerdam have returned to their home countries after traveling through Malaysia and Thailand, authorities said. None had displayed any symptoms of coronavirus.

That a person assumed free of infection could suddenly emerge as infected when arriving in another country has raised questions as to how companies and countries should handle the monitoring and possible quarantining of people who might have been exposed to Covid-19.

Holland America Line, owned by Carnival Corp, said that it was working with governments and health experts to track passengers. It said that “guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information”.

The Westerdam, with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, despite no-one on board testing positive for Covid-19.

While most passengers disembarked the Westerdam at Sihanoukville in Cambodia, at least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard. Several hundred other Westerdam passengers who left the ship are still in hotels in Cambodia and were being tested for the virus on Monday February 17th.

It was not clear how the American woman contracted the virus. The positive test in Malaysia came after she had spent more than 14 days on the Westerdam, which departed from Hong Kong on February 1st.

Holland America Line said that passengers were tested regularly on board. Cambodia also tested 20 people once it docked, but not the woman who contracted the virus.

Adam Kamradt-Scott, infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, has said that a Chinese study of 1,099 patients indicated the incubation period could be as much as 24 days, but that most people exhibited symptoms within three days.

2004-built, Netherlands-flagged, 82,862 gt Westerdam is owned by Hal Antillen NV care of manager Holland America Line NV of Seattle, Washington state, USA. It is entered with UK Club and Steamship Mutual.