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Thailand bars entry to cruise ship with no known virus cases aboard

Bangkok

THAILAND has barred passengers from Holland America's cruise ship, the Westerdam, from disembarking, its health minister said on Tuesday, making the kingdom the latest country to turn it away amid fears of the novel coronavirus - despite there being no confirmed infections on board.

The vessel has already been turned away from countries such as Japan and the Philippines, amid fears of the virus.

The Netherlands-flagged ship was 96 km off the southern coast of Vietnam on Tuesday morning, going by data from the Marine Traffic ship tracking website.

Holland America, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp, had said on Monday that the passengers would disembark in Bangkok on Thursday, and that there was no reason to believe anybody on board had the virus.

But Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul wrote in a Facebook post: "I have issued orders. Permission to dock refused."

Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate wrote in a separate Facebook post that, while the ship would not be allowed to dock, Thailand would help by providing fuel, medicine, and food to the ship.

Holland America says no one on board has the virus. Media reports say it carries 1,455 passengers and 802 crew; its original destination was Yokohama, Japan, which refused it permission to dock.

The ship has already introduced extra health screening measures, including temperature checks and cleaning to defend against the virus, Holland America said in a statement

The novel coronavirus has caused chaos in Asia and has roiled the world of luxury cruises.

Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, with 3,700 passengers and crew onboard, is quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, with 135 cases of coronavirus detected on the Carnival Corp-owned vessel.

The World Dream cruise ship was held up in Hong Kong for days after it was linked to three cases, but all passengers and crew later tested negative and were allowed to disembark. REUTERS