KOCHI: Bitta Kuruvilla is relieved. He will finally be able to join his family back home in Kochi soon. Bitta was one among the four Malayali crew members on board the cruise ship MS Westerdam docked at Sihanoukville in Cambodia, after other countries turned away the ship suspecting it to be carrying passengers affected with COVID-19. Bitta is the executive chef of the cruise liner.
The Cambodian authorities on Wednesday announced the remaining passengers of the ship tested negative for the virus and their travel restrictions will be lifted. The vessel with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew was refused entry by four other countries as it had previously docked in Hong Kong en route to Japan. It was Cambodia that finally gave permission for the ship to dock. However, the situation became tense after an 83-year-old American woman passenger, who was flown to Malaysia from Cambodia, tested positive.
“We all are safe and healthy. We were under tremendous stress and tension when we heard about the American woman testing positive,” he told TNIE from Cambodia over the phone.
Bitta said though their travel restrictions will be lifted, he is planning to reach home only in mid-April. “We will be here for the next two days. Our next cruise from Yokohama has been cancelled. There is still no confirmation about us returning to the United States. In fact, we were running short of food items as our last loading was on January 17,” he said.