Thailand turns away cruise ship with no known virus infections

The MS Westerdam cruise ship docked at Grand Turk island in a file photo. Photo: Holland America Line
The MS Westerdam cruise ship docked at Grand Turk island in a file photo. Photo: Holland America Line

Thailand is refusing to allow a cruise ship carrying 1,455 passengers to take port for fear of the novel coronavirus despite there being no known infections aboard, the health minister announced this morning.

The kingdom joined Manila, Guam and Japan – where it was bound – in turning away the Holland America MS Westerdam after it departed Taiwan on what was to be a two-week journey to Japan. The ship had sought to take port and disembark its passengers at the Laem Chabang deep water port southeast of Bangkok.

The passengers, including Japanese, are the latest to become trapped at sea since the virus broke out, with the number of infected aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess vessel anchored off Yokohama, Japan, reaching 135. Japan has begun allowing elderly passengers to leave the ship amid sanitation concerns.

The novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV has now killed more than 1,000 and infected more than 40,000 in China, and its spread around the world shows no signs of slowing.

More than 100 Hong Kongers living in the Tsing Yi housing estate were today evacuated and quarantined amid fears the virus was airborne and spreading via ventilation. Two residents of the same block had taken ill with it.

The United States reportedly confirmed its 13th case of the virus today. The unidentified patient, now admitted to the San Diego Medical Center, arrived from Wuhan last week to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

A British man who tested positive for the virus after attending a business meeting in Singapore has been labeled a “super spreader” by the media. The man flew from Singapore to the French Alps for a short holiday with other Britons before flying back to the UK, where he was diagnosed.

Among those with him at the Alps were five people who later tested positive and are now hospitalized in France, with five in Britain and one on Spain’s Mallorca island.

In Australia, the government has denounced discrimination against the Australian Chinese community. Health Minister Greg Hunt said they have been on the rise due to the coronavirus. Australians evacuated from Wuhan are being quarantined on Christmas Island, off the coast of Western Australia.

Singapore

Singapore announced two more cases of the virus last night, bringing the total number of infections to 45 as of Tuesday morning.

The latest cases involved a 37-year-old Singaporean man who works as a Certis Cisco private cop. He tested positive Sunday and is being warded at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Before he was hospitalized, the man had visited two confirmed patients before they tested positive to serve them with quarantine orders. He had also gone to the Certis Cisco center on Jalan Afifi near Paya Lebar and was also on duty at the annual Chingay street parade.

The other case is a two-year-old Singaporean girl who was among those evacuated from Wuhan on Jan. 30. She is being warded at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Seven people have now been deemed recovered from the virus after one more person was discharged from the hospital yesterday, the Health Ministry said.

Seven others are in critical condition and in the ICU.

The country has also denied media reports that the virus is airborne. Janil Puthucheary, the Senior Minister of State for Communication and Information, said that current evidence still suggests that the virus is spread through droplets.

He also met with private-hire and taxi drivers who are concerned about the outbreak as a number of confirmed cases had involved such workers. The government said it would hand out 300,000 masks to active drivers for free.

Malaysia

Malaysia is mulling a stimulus package to bolster the tourism industry now hit by the coronavirus outbreak as travel restrictions have been imposed to curtail travelers from China.

At the same time, Malaysians concerned they might have to work from home to dodge the virus have been told that there is no need to do so. Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told reporters this, citing limited cases and spread of the virus in the country.

He also denied claims by a self-proclaimed wellness coach that eating water spinach and drinking coconut water would help deter from infections. Dzulkefly said the government will stick to evidence-based solutions.

Hong Kong

More than 100 residents were evacuated from a residential building in the Tsing Yi estate early on Tuesday morning after two people living in the same block were infected. A resident living on the fourth floor is Hong Kong’s 12th confirmed coronavirus patient while a 62-year-old woman living in the apartment underneath was announced as the city’s 42nd and latest case.

Hong Kong believes the virus is airborne and can be spread to connecting vents, similar to reports during the SARS outbreak in the city in 2003.

“When a person turns on the exhaust fan inside the toilet, the air inside the drainage system can enter via the ventilation pipe,” University of Hong Kong microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung told South China Morning Post.

Those being evacuated will go on a 14-day quarantine.

Manila

The Philippines’ first coronavirus patient, 38, and wife of the first fatality outside of China, is deemed to have recovered from the disease, the health department confirmed Monday.

Her partner, a 44-year-old Chinese man, was buried on Saturday following delays over his cremation.

The country is still probing 261 cases across 15 regions.

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