Guam denies cruise ship entry

CRUISE: The MS Westerdam, part of the Holland America Line fleet, is shown at sea in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of Holland America Line

Guam has become the latest to reject the cruise ship MS Westerdam which sought entry into the island's only civilian seaport after the Philippines and Japan rejected its requests for a stopover.

"Passengers may be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus," stated the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration Friday afternoon.

The U.S. State Department had asked the government of Guam to accept the entry of the ship which has 1,455 guests as well as 802 crew members, according to a press release from the governor's office.

On Feb. 1, the vessel docked in Hong Kong and boarded approximately 800 passengers.

"The vessel sought entry at two other ports but was denied given the potential risk of infection and the need for a large quarantine," the Guam governor's office stated this afternoon. 

A statement from Holland America, which runs the cruise line, states that no passengers on board the vessel is ill. 

"Holland America Line has been notified that the Japanese Government will not allow Westerdam to call in Japanese ports," the company said in a Feb. 6 statement. "We are quickly working to develop alternate plans for guests currently on board and will keep them updated as information becomes available. As well, the latest updates will be posted here as soon as they are finalized. Despite erroneous media reports, the ship is not in quarantine and there are no known cases of coronavirus on board." 

The cruise's scheduled stopover in Yokohama on Feb. 15 has been canceled, the company added. 

“While we feel for every soul on board the MS Westerdam, our obligation is to protect the people of Guam. Though Guam is prepared to deal with the potential implications of the coronavirus, few jurisdictions can screen, quarantine, or treat 1,400 patients at one time,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said. “We respect that Guam has a duty to the nation we love, but that duty cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our people.”

Based on information from counterparts at the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. State Department, the vessel has enough food and fuel to sustain itself.

“We have made clear that we will use every tool available to us to protect our people and our border,”  Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio stated. 

To date, there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Guam.

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