4 die aboard Holland America cruise as it tries to find port

Holland America said it's working with Panamanian authorities on approval to transit the Panama Canal for sailing to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. File Photo courtesy of Holland America

March 28 (UPI) — Four elderly passengers have died and 138 passengers and crew members have complained of flu-like symptoms on board the Zaandam cruise ship, Holland America announced Friday.

The cruise, which departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was expected to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21, has been denied ports to disembark passengers amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Holland America suspended all cruise departures starting March 14.

The Zaandam rendezvoused on Thursday with fellow Holland America ship Rotterdam in Peruvian waters. New supplies and medical staff were transferred to the Zaandam. Among the supplies were COVID-19 tests, which showed that at least two of the Zaandam’s passengers were positive for the disease.

Healthy passengers on board the Zaandam were then transferred over to the Rotterdam, where they will be kept isolated in their new rooms. Those who are ill or are being quarantined because of being in contact with the ill are being kept on the Zaandam.

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“While the onward plan for both ships is still being finalized, we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities on approval to transit the Panama Canal for sailing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida,” Holland America said in a statement.

Of the more than 1,800 people on board the cruise, 53 guests and 85 crew members have reported to the medical center with flu-like symptoms since Sunday. The cruise line declined to say whether four elderly guests who died had COVID-19 symptoms.

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