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Briton among four dead on coronavirus-hit cruise ship that countries won’t let dock

A Briton is among four people to have died on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship that is at the centre of a dispute with the US over whether passengers will be allowed off.

Two of those who died on the Zaandam were confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Nine people on board the vessel have tested positive for the virus and 189 have reported flu-like symptoms.

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Elderly couple locked down on cruise

The situation on the Zaandam, which is carrying more than 200 British nationals, is being described as an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

A spokesman for the Holland America line, which operates the Zaandam, said in a statement: “One of the deceased passengers is from the UK.

“Due to US… laws, we cannot provide any additional medical and health details.”

The Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam, passed through the Panama Canal on Monday after being denied entry to several ports.

Both ships are seeking to dock in Florida later this week.

The state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is reluctant to allow the more than 1,000 people aboard the Zaandam to disembark.

However, US President Donald Trump appears set to overrule him.

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Mr DeSantis told a news conference on Tuesday that Florida’s health care resources were already stretched too thin by the coronavirus outbreak to take on the Zaandam’s caseload.

The US coastguard has said if local authorities cannot agree on a docking plan, the matter will go to the federal government for decision.

Mr DeSantis said he had been in contact with the White House about ferrying medical supplies to the ships.

He told a news conference: “Just to drop people off at the place where we’re having the highest number of cases right now just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Cheryl and David Deeks are among more than 220 passengers from the UK on board the MS Zaandam
Cheryl and David Deeks are among more than 200 passengers from the UK on board the Zaandam

However, US President Donald Trump said at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing that he would ask Mr DeSantis to allow the ships to dock in Florida.

Mr Trump said: “They’re dying on the ship.

“I’m going to do what’s right. Not only for us, but for humanity.”

Holland America said 73 guests and 116 crew members on the Zaandam had reported influenza-like illness symptoms.

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Company president Orlando Ashford wrote an opinion column in the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper to plead with officials and residents to let the passengers disembark.

He wrote: “The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our common humanity.

“To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values.”

The Zaandam originally departed from Buenos Aires on 7 March – a day before the US State Department advised to avoid cruise travel and before any substantial restrictions were in place in Florida.

The ship had been scheduled to stop in San Antonio, Chile, then complete another 20-day cruise to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 7 April.

Deaths could rise on stricken cruise ship Zaandam, operator warns

Deaths could rise on stricken cruise ship Zaandam, operator warns

But the Zaandam has assumed pariah-like status since 15 March, having been denied entry at a succession of ports.

Zaandam passengers said they were asked to keep their rooms dark and leave their drapes closed as they passed through the Panama Canal.

Holland America said the Zaandam was forced to rendezvous with its sister ship the Rotterdam after being denied entry to a number of ports.

The Rotterdam took on nearly 1,400 people who appeared healthy.

Stranded cruise passengers split between two ships amid disease fears

Stranded cruise passengers split between two ships amid disease fears

This left 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam.

The company said the two ships would remain together for the rest of the journey, and guests on both ships would remain in their rooms until disembarkation.

Guy Jones, whose parents Nick and Celia are among some 229 British nationals on the luxury cruise liner, said the company had at least been keeping passengers informed.

He said while his parents, who are from Bristol, have an attitude of “keep calm and carry on”, they are still concerned about what the next step will be.

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