It might have been a catastrophically bad call. Authorities let passengers on a cruise ship docked in Cambodia disembark, insisting none of them had the coronavirus. Not so much. An American woman who was among several hundred passengers allowed to get off the MS Westerdam over the weekend set off thermal scanners at an airport in Malaysia, reports the South China Morning Post. The unidentified 83-year-old has indeed been diagnosed with COVID-19, per the AP. Now world health experts are assessing the scary implications: Other passengers who left the ship scattered to three different continents. "We anticipated glitches, but I have to tell you I didn’t anticipate one of this magnitude," William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center tells the New York Times. "This could be a turning point."
This cruise ship is not the same one that has been quarantined in Japan. This one, the MS Westerdam, set out on Feb. 1 from Hong Kong, but soon ports all over the region fearful of the fast-spreading virus denied it permission to dock. Cambodia, which is closely allied with China and whose leader has downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, relented and granted the ship entry. Passengers were screened to some extent before being allowed to leave, but the American passenger's illness is now calling into question the thoroughness of that screening. One possibility being considered is tracking down all the passengers and asking them to voluntarily confine themselves for two weeks at home. In the meantime, ship operator Holland America Line says 255 guests and 747 crew members remain aboard the ship awaiting clearance. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)