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Cruise ship offered aid but no berth

Thais reported among passengers, crew of vessel with no place to land amid virus scare

Thailand is ready to provide humanitarian aid to the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam but, with citizens’ safety foremost in mind, the government adamantly refuses to let it to dock at Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri on Thursday, as its online itinerary indicates it planned.

A string of countries and territories have refused the ship berthing privileges despite its officers’ insistence that no one on board is infected with the coronavirus now officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation.

It has been reported that there are 19 Thai crewmembers and several Thai passengers onboard.

Affirming that Thai authorities will not let anyone fall seriously sick or die, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Chanvirakul said on Wednesday (February 12) that a medical team might be sent aboard if there is severe illness while the ship remains anchored in Thai waters.

Food, drinking water and medical supplies, as well as fuel, would be provided on request, he said.

Anutin said the Marine Department and Laem Chabang Port authority had still received no formal request from the Westerdam to dock at the port.

He said there are 700 Americans aboard, so a better solution would be for Thailand to help facilitate its continued journey to US territory. The island of Guam, which is US territory, is however among locales that have already refused the Westerdam entry.

Anutin’s remarks came after the Cruise Ship Professional Association on Tuesday called for the Thai government to review its stance, allow the docking and provide aid as needed to the passengers and crew, since its agencies have demonstrated their capability in controlling the spread of the virus.

As of 7pm on Wednesday, Holland America Line provided an update on its social media page (facebook.com/HALCruises) that Westerdam was now sailing for Sihanoukville, Cambodia. After the arrival at 7am on Thursday, guests would disembark in Sihanoukville over the next few days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forward travel home.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Public Heath

The Public Health Ministry in its Wednesday briefing said the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in Thailand remained unchanged at 33. Of those, 22 remain in medical facilities and 11 have recovered and been released.

The number of “patients under investigation” was 799, with 587 found to be mainly suffering from flu and released.

Globally, there were 44,789 infections and 1,112 fatalities – including 44,311 infections and 1,110 deaths in all regions of China, the ministry said.

Department of Disease Control director-general Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai addressed a news report about a Briton jailed in Thailand but extradited on January 27 to serve his remaining sentence in the UK. He’s now being tested for suspected COVID-19 infection.

Suwannachai said the inmate underwent a physical examination including a lung X-ray and sputum smear test for pulmonary tuberculosis and was deemed “fit to fly” prior to extradition. Thailand has forwarded this information to the UK, he said.

The price of protective facemasks was again a topic for Commerce Ministry permanent secretary Boonyarit Kalayanamit on Tuesday in discussions with online shopping platforms such as Lazada, Shopee and Central Group’s jd.com.

He asked them to impose controls on the price to prevent downstream retailers from hiking it unfairly. Starting this week, warnings will be issued about penalties for overpricing and repeat offenders’ shops will be shut down.

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