By Ebrahim Harris and Matthew Tostevin
KUALA LUMPUR/ SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (Reuters) – An American passenger from a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus a second time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia said on Sunday, after the cruise firm and Cambodian authorities sought further tests.
The 83-year-old woman was the first passenger from the MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, to test positive for the virus. She tested positive in the Malaysian capital where she arrived on Friday from the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville.
But the cruise ship operator had sought more tests, saying the first result was preliminary. Cambodian authorities also called on Malaysia to review its test results.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Waz Azizah Wan Ismail said on Sunday the American woman tested positive again on Saturday night.
“The COVID-19 retest was carried out on the husband and wife pair late last night and the results were the same. That is positive for the wife and negative for her husband,” Wan Azizah told reporters.
A total of 145 passengers from the cruise ship had arrived in Malaysia but only the American couple showed symptoms, Malaysian authorities have said.
Wan Azizah said 137 passengers have left Kuala Lumpur, while another six are awaiting flights to their destinations.
Malaysia will not allow any more Westerdam passengers to enter the country “taking into account that all those passengers were in close contact with the earlier positive case”, she said.
Malaysia will also turn away any cruise ship that departed or transited at any port in China, Wan Azizah said.
The Westerdam passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,600 people, the vast majority in China.
It arrived on Thursday in Cambodia carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.
Holland America said 236 passengers and 747 crew remained aboard the vessel.
Cambodia’s government said its own tests had been done in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mam Bun Heng, Cambodian Minister of Health, was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
There are widespread fears that cruise ships around Asia may be spreading the virus. The biggest cluster outside China has been on the Diamond Princess, quarantined off Japan’s Yokohama. Out of about 3,700 passengers and crew on board, 355 people have tested positive.
Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday.
(Reporting by Ebrahim Harris and A. Ananthalakshmi in Kuala Lumpur, Matthew Tostevin and Clare Baldwin in Sihanoukville, Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Muralikumar Anantharaman)