Malaysia bars cruise ships with recent China visits

PUTRAJAYA, 17 Feb 2020:

All cruise ships that depart or transit from any ports in China will not be allowed to enter Malaysia for the time being, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

She said the move is a temporary measure to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 infection – following a case involving an American woman who tested positive for the cluster infection.

The government, she said, was aware the woman, aged 83, was one of 1,455 passengers on the cruise ship MS Westerdam which had docked in Hong Kong.

“We know the ship stopped in Hong Kong for a night before embarking on a 14-day East Asia voyage on Feb 1.

“So, there is a possibility of contact between the passengers and the Hong Kong people , where some of them may have been exposed to the virus,” she told a media conference on the latest developments of Covid-19 here yesterday.

Retests conducted on an American couple who flew in from Cambodia after disembarking from a cruise ship, have shown the same results – with the wife confirmed positive for Covid-19 while her husband tested negative for the virus.

Dr Wan Azizah said the Ministry of Health performed the retests late on Saturday night.

“The retests conducted on Feb 15 found the wife, 83, was positive for Covid-19. The patient has coughing symptoms but no fever or shortness of breath, while the X-ray findings show signs of pneumonia.

“Her husband is negative for the virus but he is currently being treated for bacterial infection.”

Dr Wan Azizah said the couple was among 145 passengers on board a Malaysian Airlines chartered flight MH8763 from Sihanoukville International Airport, Cambodia which landed at KL International Airport (KLIA) at 7pm on Friday.

All 145 passengers underwent health screening and the couple was sent to Sungai Buloh Hospital for further examinations after they exhibited symptoms.

The woman is currently being treated at Sungai Buloh Hospital and is in a stable condition, she said.

The Westerdam cruise liner had docked in Hong Kong a day before embarking on a 14-day East Asia Cruise on Feb 1. However, it was denied docking by Japan, the Philippines and Thailand after a few passengers of another cruise ship Diamond Princess that had been berthing in Japan were tested positive for Covid-19.

The ship was later allowed to anchor in Sihanoukville, Cambodia on Feb 13.

“The cruise ship operator Holland American Line had chartered Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flights to ferry a part of the ship passengers from Sihanoukville International Airport to various destinations via KLIA,” Dr Wan Azizah said.

She said according to the plan, MAS would provide four flights from Feb 14 to 16. However, after it was informed of the confirmed case, MAS had cancelled the remaining chartered flights.

Meanwhile, Dr Wan Azizah – who is also the National Disaster Management Committee chairman – said of the remaining 143 passengers who were found asymptomatic, 137 had continued their journeys while another six passengers were still waiting for connecting flights to their respective destinations.

“These six passengers will have to undergo health screenings again before they are allowed to continue with their journeys.”

Dr Wan Azizah also said Malaysia International Health Regulations (IHR) Focal Point has carried out contact tracing by initiating communications with National IHR Focal Point of the involved countries.

Six passengers of the cruise ship Westerdam have tested negative for Covid-19, according to laboratory results received from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR).

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the six passengers comprising four citizens of the US and two from the Netherlands, are now at KLIA, waiting to board their respective flights, and are in good health.

“The embassies have been informed of the test results and the passengers will be allowed to board their flights in order to continue their journey to their respective destinations,” said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement.

– Bernama