World

Cambodia opened door for barred liner

By AAP Newswire

A total of 79 Australians were aboard the cruise ship Westerdam when it docked in Sihanoukville after being refused entry across Southeast Asia amid fears of the coronavirus, the Cambodian government says.

It said the figure included 43 females and 36 males.

Ek Madra, spokesman for Cambodia's Office of the Council of Ministers said of the 79 some had since flown home while others remained on board the liner or were staying at hotels.

"Now you can see with your own eyes that Cambodia is a small nation but has a very big heart," he told AAP.

The Westerdam, a Holland-America cruise ship, was denied entry to the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Guam and Thailand amid fears about 2200 people on board could have been exposed to the coronavirus.

It docked on Friday when passengers were greeted personally by Prime Minister Hun Sen and since then one person - an elderly American woman - has tested positive for the virus in Malaysia.

Hun Sen, an unlikely hero, is often targeted by human rights groups.

But he said the plight of the Westerdam was also a human rights issue.

"If the Kingdom did not allow entry for Westerdam, where would the cruise be when the food and gasoline are running low. How would lives of the passengers end up?

"We all talk about human rights. However, discrimination and over-fear have destroyed human rights," he said, according to the government-friendly news portal Fresh News.

On Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she knew of 39 Australians being tested for the virus in Phnom Penh while a further 10 remained on board.

Results from those tests are expected on Wednesday or Thursday.

"Our post in Cambodia are reaching out to those Australians to provide assistance to them and to establish when they'll be able to leave the cruise ship and to support any other issues that they may have," she said in Melbourne.

Australian David Holst and his wife Judy were among those on board the Westerdam for what was supposed to be a 30-day cruise around Asia. They have since returned to Adelaide.

"You just go through this uncomfortable emotional turmoil where 'what's going on' and you're just seriously worried that at the same time they're going to announce that the virus is on your boat," he told ABC news.

"But Holland America should hang their head in shame to put a boat with 2500 people (sic) at risk by sailing into a city that's on red alert for a potentially fatal virus - that's a fair bit of corporate irresponsibility or neglect."