- “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time,” the statement said.
- The ship was receiving medical supplies and medical personnel from another Holland America Ship, the Rotterdam.
- More than 130 people aboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms by March 22.
At least four passengers have died aboard a cruise ship that is anchored off the coast of Panama and two people have tested positive for the coronavirus, the cruise line confirmed this on Friday. “Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam,” the cruise line said on a post on its Facebook page.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time,” the statement said. The cause of the death was however not revealed. In order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the guests were placed under lockdown in their staterooms.
The ship was receiving medical supplies and medical personnel from another Holland America Ship, the Rotterdam. Around 407 healthy passengers were to be transferred to that ship with priority given to the guests with inside staterooms and those who are over 70. Panama Maritime Authority’s administrator, Noriel Arauz, said that no one in the ship would be allowed ashore in Panama, which the Health Ministry said had 786 coronavirus cases with 14 confirmed deaths as at Friday.
A ship official said that a number of patients were tested on Thursday after the ship received testing kits for the virus. “We are still seeing both guests and crew with symptoms report to the medical center and the situation continues to grow more challenging each day,” the official said. Panama Canal Authority’s administrator, Ricaurte Vasquez said that since the Health Ministry had not permitted the vessel to pass through its waters, positive tests of the passengers would mean putting the ship on quarantine.
The Panama Maritime Authority said that the bodies of the victims would remain on the ship until it reaches its final destination. The authority said in a statement that it “deeply regrets these deaths, as well as the complex situation of the passengers and crew of the Zaandam cruiser go through.” There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew members on board the Zaandam. The guests include Americans, Canadians, Germans, Australians, Spanish, French and New Zealanders.
More than 130 people aboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms. On March 22, when the flu-like symptoms became evident, the ship instituted protective measures. One of them required everyone onboard to self-isolate in their cabins. The cruise line said that on Thursday all the passengers and crew received masks and instruction of how to use them. The last time passengers were allowed off the vessel was on March 14, in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Hundreds of the passengers on board are not sure of how long they will be stuck on the ship. The ship had been turned away from other ports and access through the Panama Canal has been denied due to the global pandemic. The Zaandam left Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 7. The ship was trying to get to Fort Lauderdale, Florida after being denied permission to dock at its original destination of San Antonio, Chile a week ago.