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Two More River Cruise Passengers Test Positive, Tally Reaches Five Cases

Viking Cruise Journey ship with a British passenger tested positive for Covid-19 docks in Kampong Cham province, Cambodia, March 12, 2020. The Cambodian Health Ministry announced on Thursday that two more passengers have tested positive. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)

Two more passengers on the Viking Cruise Journey cruise ship docked at Kampong Cham province have tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, a day after another British woman on the same cruise tested positive.

The Ministry of Health confirmed Wednesday night that a British couple aboard the cruise had tested positive. The positive tests coincided with an announcement from the World Health Organization on Wednesday, classifying the viral outbreak a pandemic.

Five of the cruise passengers had been tested for COVID-19, after which one British woman tested positive on Tuesday. The five were on a flight from London to Hanoi last week, when one of the passengers onboard tested positive for the virus. The Vietnamese authorities alerted Cambodian officials, after which the five British nationals were tested.

Following the positive test, the remaining 59 passengers were tested on Wednesday. There are 30 passengers onboard the cruise, including citizens from Great Britain, United States, Canada, Holland, Vietnam, and Myanmar, according to the Health Ministry. Twenty-four of the 34 crew members are Cambodians.

Provincial Governor Un Chanda said 61 passengers and crew, excluding the three infected individuals, had been quarantined at hotels in the provincial town and kept isolated from each other.

“We prepare [around] 60 hotel rooms, each of them will stay separately in a room, and this is in accordance with the instructions from health officials,” Un Chanda said.

The two positive cases from Wednesday have been quarantined at the provincial referral hospital. But the other British woman was transferred to Phnom Penh, because she needed special assistance on account of a disability, said Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine.

Four individuals who came in contact with the British woman – a translator, the translator’s daughter and two tuk tuk drivers – had tested negative, said Or Vandine, and were asked to remain in self quarantine for 14 days.

The cruise travelled along the Mekong River from the My Tho port, near Ho Chi Minh City, through Chau Doc and Kaoam Samnor. The cruise left on March 5 and arrived in Phnom Penh on March 7, after which it proceeded to Kampong Cham.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic on Wednesday, after its rapid spread to 114 countries, with more than 118,000 cases reported and around 4,300 deaths globally.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” he said in the press conference.