Four passengers die on Panama cruise ship ZaandamChristian Fernsby ▼ | March 28, 2020
Four passengers have died aboard a cruise ship Zaandam now anchored off the coast of Panama and two people aboard the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, the cruise line said on Friday, with hundreds of passengers unsure how long they will remain at sea.
Cruise ship Zaandam
Topics: Panama cruise ship Zaandam
"Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam," the statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time." It did not identify the cause of death.
The ship, which had been turned away from other ports and now is being denied passage through the Panama Canal, was receiving medical supplies and medical personnel from another Holland America ship, the Rotterdam, and the company planned to begin transferring healthy passengers to that ship.
"Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those on Zaandam with inside staterooms and who are over 70," the statement said. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board the Zaandam.
On Friday, the Panama Maritime Authority said in a statement that 401 passengers not showing symptoms of the virus would be transferred to the Rotterdam. It said medical supplies were being delivered to the Zaandam until midnight and then the shipments would resume on Saturday.
The authority said the bodies of the virus victims would remain on the Zaandam until the liner arrives at its final destination.
The Panama Maritime Authority "deeply regrets these deaths, as well as the complex situation the passengers and crew of the Zaandam cruiser go through," the statement said.
The authority's administrator, Noriel Arauz, said earlier in the day that no one on either ship would be allowed ashore in Panama, which the Health Ministry said had 786 coronavirus cases, with 14 deaths, as of Friday.
The Zaandam departed 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. The cruise line said no one had been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile.
On March 22, when a number of passengers began reporting flu-like symptoms, the ship instituted protective measures, including telling everyone to self-isolate in their cabins, the cruise line said. On Thursday, all passengers and crew received masks and instruction on how to use them. ■