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Cruise ship heads to Cambodia after Thailand bars entry

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Passengers on board the Westerdam cruise ship. Carnival Corp's Holland America Line, the operator of the ship, has said there's no reason to believe there are any coronavirus cases on board.

Bangkok

THE outcast Westerdam luxury cruise liner is headed to Cambodia to dock after Thailand became the latest nation to turn it away because of concerns over the coronavirus.

The liner will reach Sihanoukville, Cambodia, at 7:00 am local time on Thursday, Holland America Line said in a statement distributed on Twitter. The ship will remain in port for several days for disembarkation, and passengers will be allowed to go ashore, the company said.

Thailand had said it would consider helping any sick persons aboard but stood by its decision to bar entry, as the ordeal continued for the 2,257 passengers and crew looking to disembark.

With the South-east Asian nation becoming the fifth country or territory to turn away the ship, the Westerdam was facing the risk of running low on food and other supplies. Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam have also rejected it on concerns over the virus, which has killed more than 1,000 people.

Carnival Corp's Holland America Line, the operator of the ship, has said there's no reason to believe there are any coronavirus cases on board. But Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul questioned on Wednesday whether that could be known with certainty, while adding he's ready to consider providing medical aid, food and water if asked.

"We must think about the safety of our people," Mr Anutin told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday. "We've been told that there are no cases of infection on the ship, but how can we be sure?"

Some of the passengers taking to Twitter had said that they heard they would be allowed to disembark in Bangkok on Thursday.

In a blog post earlier this week, the operator announced the ship was headed to Laem Chabang port southeast of Bangkok where passengers would end their journey on Feb 13.

The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on Feb 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise. The 1,455 guests and 802 crew members were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Feb 15. The ship has sufficient fuel and food provisions to last until the end of the voyage, according to a Holland America Line blog post. BLOOMBERG