Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

British river cruise passenger tests positive for coronavirus in Kampong Cham

Health Minister Mam Bunheng speaks at a press conference on March 10, 2020 at the Health Ministry in Phnom Penh. Panha Chhorpoan

A 65-year-old British woman on a river cruise in Kampong Cham province tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, with the boat’s 64 other passengers and crew members now barred from disembarking.

Speaking at a press conference at the Health Ministry in Phnom Penh, ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said the woman had flown from London to Hanoi on March 2, sitting nearby a Vietnamese woman who tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Vietnam.

The British woman began her cruise in Hanoi, traveling to Ho Chi Minh City on March 5 and Phnom Penh via the Mekong river on March 7.

Vietnamese authorities alerted Cambodian counterparts to the British woman’s contact with the Vietnamese coronavirus patient. The British woman and four other cruise ship passengers who had been on the same flight were taken to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, Vandine said.

Three of the passengers agreed to be tested, but the 65-year-old British woman and another passenger refused, Vandine said.

They all traveled to Kampong Cham on March 9, when health authorities again asked the two to be tested, and they consented. The British woman tested positive, while the four others all tested negative.

The press conference did not discuss whether the British woman had toured Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham, though a female Cambodian translator who helped the British woman is also being tested, Vandine said.

“The British woman has been quarantined at the Kampong Cham Provincial Referral Hospital for treatment,” Vandine said. “The other 64 people are not allowed to get on the mainland. They will stay on the cruise ship.”

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry will begin testing all 64 passengers and crew members on board, and the British Embassy will be informed, she said.

The case is Cambodia’s third positive coronavirus test. A 60-year-old Chinese man, Jia Jianhua, was found to be infected with the virus after arriving from China’s Wuhan to Sihanoukville in January, while an unnamed 38-year-old Cambodian man contracted the virus after coming into contact with a Japanese traveler in Siem Reap earlier this month.