Cruise Ship Coronavirus Updates for Diamond Princess and Westerdam

There’s so much information out there about the two cruise ships and coronavirus updates, that it gets confusing to keep track of it all.  Here is the latest compilation of what various news sources and the cruise lines themselves, have reported.

Cruise ship coronavirus updates from Holland America Westerdam in Cambodia
Westerdam officers are greeted with flowers as they disembark in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Holland America issued several coronavirus updates to assure that there were no cases of coronavirus or anyone with symptoms on board the Westerdam.  However,  an 83-year old woman tested positive for coronavirus when she was retested upon landing in Malaysia, the first stop after leaving the Westerdam in Cambodia. 

Cruise ship coronavirus update:  Holland America Westerdam 

According to Holland America, none of the Westerdam’s 1,455 passengers or 802 crew members showed any symptoms. Despite being rejected from five nations in the Pacific, Cambodia welcomed the ship to dock there and eventually disembark its passengers.    

What happened in Cambodia is critical

As the passengers disembarked the Westerdam on February 14, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was not wearing a mask, greeted everyone with hugs and flowers.  He also had his bodyguards order locals on hand for the event to remove their masks. Even the American Ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy and his family that arrived the next day to meet passengers, did not wear masks.  

Most of the passengers from the Westerdam flew from Cambodia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.   When the plane from Cambodia stopped in Malaysia, all passengers were again tested for the virus. When retested, one elderly woman now had a fever, but her husband did not.  But this was enough to have the couple taken to a local hospital.  It was discovered that she indeed was positive for the virus.  While her husband’s results for coronavirus were negative, he showed signs of the onset of pneumonia.  

Now the question is: were Cambodians at the welcome scene infected?

READ MORE:  The beginning of Westerdam’s isolation at sea – a ship without a port

Finding those who flew home 

The current issue now is to try and locate Westerdam cruise ship passengers who were possibly exposed to and may develop coronavirus that were on the plane from Cambodia to Malaysia.  Authorities are trying to contact passengers who went on ahead home to the US as well as to continue to monitor the remaining passengers aboard the Westerdam, still in Cambodia.  It’s a wait and see period if anyone else develops coronavirus.   

Cruise ship coronavirus update:  Princess Cruises Diamond Princess 

According to CBS News, “As of Tuesday, 542 cases of the virus have been identified among the 3,711 quarantined passengers and crew (aboard Diamond Princess), making the ship the site of the most infections outside of China.”  It was time to get them off the ship.   Many have thought Diamond Princess to be an incubator for the virus rather than a safe quarantine area. 

“The quarantine hasn’t worked, and this ship has now become a source of infection,” said Dr. Nathalie MacDermott, an outbreak expert at King’s College London. “There’s no reason this should not have worked if it had been done properly.” Hunter said it could be down to compliance problems; “some passengers who think they’re not going to let anyone tell them what they can and cannot do.””We have to presume everyone leaving the ship is potentially infected, and therefore they have to go through another two-week quarantine period,” he said. “Not to do so would be reckless.”

Diamond Princess passengers board the chartered plane to head back to the USA. (Photo credit: Sadayuki Goto / Kyodo News via AP)

Most of the American citizens quarantined on Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan have been evacuated.  To do the transfer from ship to bus to the two chartered Kalitta Air cargo planes, Japanese troops organized the transport movement.  On Sunday, their flights landed at either Travis Air Force Base in California or Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. 

13 evacuees from cruise ship arrive at University of Nebraska Medical Center

Thirteen of the 328 U.S. citizens aboard Diamond Princess either tested positive for coronavirus or were considered at high risk to develop it.  They were kept in isolation at the rear of the plane on the flight home.  Those passengers without symptoms were immediately taken to facilities on both bases for another 14-day quarantine. 

Within hours after the two cargo planes from Japan landed, the aircraft departed again carrying the 13 infected passengers.  Both Kalitta cargo planes were heading to Omaha, Nebraska and the world-class University of Nebraska Medical Center.  

When the planes touched down at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, they taxied to an isolated aircraft parking area.  No one entered the airport terminal.  All boarded a special bus and headed directly to the National Quarantine Unit.  

Passengers leave the plane in Omaha to be transported by special vans to the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s National Quarantine Unit. (Photo credit: Z Long / The World Herald)

The University of Nebraska Medical Center announced on Monday that it is caring for all 13 people evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.  

Twelve of those people are in the 20-bed National Quarantine Unit.  One elderly man is in the specially-engineered bio-containment unit, officials said during a press conference on Monday.  This special unit is the same one that was used for Ebola patients in 2014. 

In total, there are now 29 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. 


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