39 Dutch stuck on cruise over coronavirus fears return to Schiphol

Schiphol Amsterdam
Schiphol Airport. Jul 16, 2015Photo: Boarding2Now/DepositPhotos

39 Dutch who were on cruise ship Westerdam arrived at Schiphol Airport on Friday morning. Their plane, a chartered flight arranged by shipping company Holland America Line for 268 people on board the Westerdam, landed at 6:30 a.m. at the Amsterdam airport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to NU.nl.

All passengers on board the flight tested negative for coronavirus Covid-19, the Ministry said in a statement. According to Holland America Line (HAL), they all have proof from the Cambodian Ministry of Health that they tested negative for the virus. The tests were approved by the World Health Organization.

At Schiphol, the Dutch passengers were received by staff of health service GGD, according to the newspaper. They will not have to be quarantined, however their local GGD will contact them about their situation, or ask them to contact the GGD if anything about their health changes. The Netherlands' national coordinator for infections disease control LCI and public health institute RIVM informed the local GGD departments about which travelers were on board the plane.

HAL was also present at Schiphol to receive its staff and the non-Dutch passengers. The shipping company will help them on their further journey home.

"I am happy that the flight with a big group of Dutch who were on the Westerdam landed at Schiphol," Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter. "This puts an end to a period of uncertainty. Welcome home."

The chartered plane was initially meant to land in Istanbul, but the Turkish authorities stopped the landing, denying the plane entry to the country. After consultation between HAL and the Dutch government, the decision was made to land the plane at Schiphol, after refueling in Pakistan, according to the newspaper. 

The Westerdam, with 1,455 passengers on board, wandered the sea for two weeks looking for harbor. It was refused entry by five countries over fear of the coronavirus - even though all passengers had tested negative for the virus at that time. In the end, Cambodia allowed the ship to dock and the passengers to disembark.

A few days after hundreds of passengers had left the ship, one passenger from the United States tested positive for Covid-19. The Cambodian health authorities therefore had all Westerdam passengers and crew tested again and only allowed them to leave when their tests came back negative.

There were a total of 91 Dutch people on the cruise ship. When the rest will return home, is not clear.