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Four die on cruise ship off Panama


Four die on cruise ship off Panama

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PANAMA CITY – Four passengers have died on a cruise ship off the Pacific coast of Panama with more than 130 others aboard suffering from influenza-like symptoms, at least two of whom have coronavirus (COVID-19), the vessel’s operator said on Friday.

Holland America Line said in a statement the MS Zaandam, previously on a South American cruise, was trying to transit the Panama Canal and make its way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

But Panama’s government has denied it access to the canal for sanitary reasons, leaving passengers and crew wondering when they will get home.

Ian Rae, a London-based Scotsman on the ship with his wife, said most passengers were coping “pretty well” despite being in self-isolation since last Sunday.

“It’s probably not an awful lot worse than the people back in the UK. or anywhere else in the world at the moment,” Rae, a 73-year-old grandfather of four, told Reuters by telephone.

A ship official told passengers on Friday morning via a public address system that one guest died several days ago, followed by two deaths on Thursday and another overnight, according to a recording heard by Reuters.

The four dead were “older guests”, the operator said.

Rae said the announcement was the first time he had been made aware of the deaths on the 238-metre (781-foot) vessel.

The Zaandam departed Argentina on March 7 and had been scheduled to end its journey in San Antonio, Chile on March 21. Nobody has disembarked from the ship since it docked in Punta Arenas on the southern coast of Chile nearly two weeks ago.

On board are 1 243 guests and 586 crew, as well as four doctors and four nurses, the cruise operator said.

The ship official said a number of patients were tested on Thursday after the ship received virus testing kits.



Canadian passengers Chris and Anna Joiner asking for help onboard the MS Zaandam, Holland America  Line cruise ship, off the shores of Panama, March 27, 2020. (Reuters)