American woman was tested twice for Covid-19, says Wan Azizah (updated)

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail speaking to the media as Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (centre) and Health director-general Datuk Noor Hisham Abdullah look on.

PUTRAJAYA: The 83-year-old American woman who was a passenger of cruise ship MS Westerdam was tested twice before she was confirmed to be Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) positive, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Malaysian health authority adhered to international protocol when carrying out the tests.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also the Disaster Management Centre Committee chairman, said that Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had shown all the test results to his Cambodian counterpart.

Dr Wan Azizah said she had met with the Prime Minister, the Health Minister and various relevant agency heads and held a meeting with them as well as Malaysia Airlines to discuss issues relating to Covid-19.

The 83-year-old woman was the first passenger from the MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, to test positive for the virus while her husband was tested negative.

"The wife tested positive twice. The first one, they (Cambodian authorities) said that maybe we did not adhere to protocol.

"But Dr Noor Hisham said we showed everything to them and they agreed that our protocol was actually world class. So, whatever Malaysia did was right.

"It was not a false positive. It was a positive," Dr Wan Azizah said at a press conference here Sunday (Feb 16).

Earlier, the Cambodian Health Ministry had asked its Malaysian counterpart to review its test results after the woman was tested positive for the virus, Reuters reported.

Dr Wan Azizah said the Holland American Line had chartered a Malaysian Airlines flight to bring several of the cruise ship passengers from Sihanoukville in Cambodia to various destinations via KL International Airport.

According to the plan, MAS would prepare four rented chartered flights (MH8763) to bring 145 passengers to KLIA on Friday (Feb 14).

Dr Wan Azizah said that all the passengers were screened and the woman and her husband, both US citizens, were detected to have symptoms while going through thermal scanners.

They were sent to Hospital Sungai Buloh for further examination and the following day, the woman was tested positive.

She had a cough but no fever or breathlessness, while X-ray results did not show any inflammation.

Dr Wan Azizah said based on the results, MAS has cancelled the rest of the chartered flights, since the other passengers were considered "close contacts" of the woman.

Meanwhile, among the 143 others who were screened and did not have symptoms, 137 of them had continued with their journeys while six more were waiting for their connecting flights, she said.

According to the Health Ministry, Malaysia will be communicating with the respective countries via International Health Regulation focal points for further monitoring of the 137 passengers.

The remaining six passengers waiting for their flights here will have to go through Covid-19 tests, she said.

"If they are found negative, they will be allowed to continue with their journey.

"However, if they test positive, they will be brought to hospital for observation," she said.

Dr Wan Azizah also said the government has decided not to allow any cruise ships that had left China or transit there to enter Malaysia.

The remainder of the passengers on the MS Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia will not be allowed to enter Malaysia since they were all close contacts of the American woman, she said.

Dr Wan Azizah said that the MS Westerdam carried 2,257 people with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members.

The ship had docked in Hong Kong for a day before going on a 14-day East Asia cruise journey on Thursday (Feb 13).

The ship was not allowed to dock at several countries before it was allowed to at Sihanoukville on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a US government spokesperson said: "We are aware of reports from Malaysian health authorities regarding a US citizen who departed Cambodia and has tested positive for Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur."

"The safety and wellbeing of US citizens are the top priority of the US Embassy, and our Consular Officers are working closely with the Malaysian government and public health professionals in addressing the challenges posed by Covid-19."

The spokesperson said that the US government appreciated the professionalism and support shown to its citizen by the Malaysian government and the Health Ministry.

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Dr Wan Azizah , Covid-19 , MS Westerdam , Cambodia


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