Passengers leave of MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, as it docks in Sihanoukville, Cambodia February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES NO ARCHIVES

TWO Malaysians on board the Diamond Princess cruise liner have tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus and are being managed by the Japanese authorities, the Health Ministry said.

Director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said two Malaysians on board the liner are confirmed Covid-19 cases and two more are waiting for their test results.

“The quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess is the largest cluster of cases outside China with more than 400 people tested positive.

“Two Malaysians on Diamond Princess cruise were confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 and two more pending are awaiting anxiously for their results. Both patients are being isolated and managed in Japan,” he said in a Facebook post today.

The liner was on a 16-day cruise with stops in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam and made port in Yokohama Bay, Japan. She was quarantined by the authorities there because of the widespread infection on board.

A total of 2,666 passengers from more than 50 countries were quarantined in their compartments. Yesterday, more than 300 Americans rescued from the liner arrived back in the US for two more weeks of medical seclusion.

The outbreak has so far killed more than 1,800 people and infected 72,000 others in more than 25 countries.

Malaysia has so far registered 22 cases of Covid-19, of which eight people have recovered and discharged from hospital. -THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

Tour operators say closing ports to China cruises not massive blow, but warn of larger Covid-19 fallout

KUALA LUMPUR — Putrajaya’s move to close local ports to ex-China cruises will not hit the industry here hard, said travel operators who expressed greater concern about the coronavirus disease’s (Covid-19) impact on Malaysian tourism in general.

Travel agents told Malay Mail that cruises to and from China were a minor offering, saying most tourists preferred to travel by air than sea between the two destinations.

“There aren’t a lot of direct cruises from here to China as far as I’m aware of. Some choose to depart from Singapore then head to Australia, New Zealand then China and Japan following the cruise.”

“Since cancellations are allowed for flights till March, most of the customers are taking these refunds. So there’s going to be some effect on the market.

Lee Soon Son of travel agency 12FLY told Malay Mail that cruises offered here were typically bound for Japan rather than China, but said his agency was anticipating a 30 per cent decline in sales due to the Covid-19 epidemic in China.

While acknowledging that China cruises did not have a significant share of the market, Lee said any further decline in the current climate could create a domino effect.

“It does affect the industry especially since now we can see the passengers even sceptical to board or embark in SIngapore.

“The market is definitely slow as business is not just affecting China but Singapore and countries with ships that sail to Malaysia,” Lee added.

A Holiday Tours and Travel agent who asked to be named only as Kiefe also predicted a 30 per cent fall in sales as her firm sold packages with the Royal Carribean cruise operator that has stopped travel to Shanghai.

She said China tours were a larger part of her firm’s offerings but said it also offered cruises to other parts of the world, which would help to soften the blow of the government’s decision.

“It can be a significant market for big cruise ship companies but for us we offer many European destinations as well so at the moment it’s slow for China,” Kiefe told Malay Mail.

“For now all bookings will be cancelled to China and we shall see what the situation is by mid-year.”

According to a Tourism Malaysia report from 2017, 253 international cruise ships called at the country’s 11 ports between January and May that year, up 9.48 per cent from the same period in 2016.

The MS Westerdam cruise liner operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc had berthed in Hong Kong on January 31 before beginning a 14-day East Asia cruise from February 1.

The cruise ship then arrived in Sihanoukville, Cambodia on February 13, 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.

The company initially chartered four Malaysia Airlines flights to KLIA here in order to send its passengers home, but only managed one before one — an 83-year-old American woman — tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival.

Malaysia then announced that the country will no longer allow ex-China cruises to enter local ports. – MALAY MAIL

Ringgit continues downtrend as Covid-19 fears persist

KUALA LUMPUR ― The ringgit continued its downtrend from last week following worries surrounding global markets as Covid-19 fears continue to persist.At 9.07am, the ringgit was quoted at 4.1460/1500 against the greenback compared with yesterday’s close of 4.1400/1450.

Benchmark Brent crude has also slid to US$57.24 per barrel, as it re-enters the downtrend movement and retains downside volatility.

It slightly appreciated against the Singapore dollar to 2.9802/9841 from 2.9806/9846 and minorly climbed versus the euro to 4.4889/4936 from 4.4898/4957 yesterday.

The ringgit rose against the British pound to 5.3873/3933 from 5.3977/4059 and eased vis-a-vis the Japanese yen to 3.7773/7817 from 3.7674/7730 at yesterday’s close. ― Bernama