PM: Aid, medical help possible for stranded ship
published : 11 Feb 2020 at 19:41
writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
Thailand will not allow a cruise ship from Japan to dock at Laem Chabang but will stand ready at the port to provide humanitarian aid and medical services.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul posted a short Facebook message late on Monday, saying he had directed authorities not to allow the Westerdam to dock in Thailand.
The Bhumjaithai Party leader, who is also the deputy prime minister in charge of transport, reacted after Holland America Line, the operator of the vessel, announced on Monday the ship would let passengers off at the deep-sea port in Chon Buri province on Thursday.
Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate, also from Bhumjaithai, confirmed on Tuesday morning Holland America had sought an approval from Thai authorities on Feb 10 but the ministry rejected it. The Marine Department, however, issued a statement on the same day saying the ship had yet to seek permission to enter Thailand.
The vessel carrying 2,257 — 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members — was scheduled to enter Naha Port in Okinawa prefecture on Saturday. But following Japan's order, the plan was cancelled.
The Japanese government denied entry to the Westerdam after a passenger was suspected of having caught the new coronavirus. It has also been denied debarking in Manila and Guam.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday that while the vessel would not be allowed to dock at the Thai port, Thailand was ready to help the people on board.
The Public Health Ministry said it was ready to send medical staff to the port if requested, according to the chief of Department of Disease Control.
Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai told a briefing on Tuesday health officials were working closely with related agencies, including the Port Authority of Thailand, Marine Department and Immigration Bureau, to evaluate the situation.
He further explained that under the 2015 Communicable Disease Act, the ministry was authorised to make a joint decision with the Department of Marine and Immigration Bureau on whether or not to allow a ship coming from a city with an outbreak to dock at a Thai port. They could also impose measures to prevent the disease from spreading.
However, he insisted that a permit to dock at the Thai port had not been approved by the authority.
According to the ministry’s source, a medical team would be sent to the cruise if there were patients on board. "There is no information on the situation on the ship but any treatment will likely be done on board."
Westerdam told its clients it was heading for Laem Chabang, marking the end of the cruise which began on Feb 1. Guests will disembark there and be transferred to Bangkok to fly home.
Note: Photo by Master0Garfield distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence