What to Know
- Four people aboard a Holland America cruise ship passed away, and at least two other guests tested positive for coronavirus with several others reporting flu-like symptoms
- On Saturday, Panamanian officials authorized the ship to transit the Panama Canal, shortening its trip back to Fort Lauderdale
- Healthy guests are currently being transferred to another ship
A Holland America cruise ship that was destined for Fort Lauderdale has been authorized by Panamanian authorities to transit the Panama Canal and head home after four people onboard died and several others reported flu-like symptoms, with at least two testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
"The Panama Canal is preparing to facilitate the transit of the Zaandam through the waterway, after receiving authorization from Panama's Ministry of Health," officials from the Panama Canal announced in a press release Saturday night.
"Traveling through the Canal will allow the Zaandam to save two days in their journey back to Florida."
In a statement, Port Everglades says the cruise line has not yet received official authorization to finish the trip.
“...Holland America Line has not yet received official approval to transit the Panama Canal, nor to enter Port Everglades. Should Holland America receive approval to transit the Panama Canal, it would take about three days for the ship to reach South Florida,“ officials from Port Everglades say.
In the meantime, healthy passengers are being transported to another of Holland America's ships, the Rotterdam. First priority will go to guests in inside staterooms and who are over 70, officials said.
Only those who have not been ill will be moved, and health screenings will be conducted before transferring. The ships are currently anchored outside Panama Canal waters.
Last week, a number of patients with respiratory symptoms on the ship were tested for COVID-19 and two tested positive, Holland America said. Four older guests onboard passed away.
As of Friday, 53 guests and 85 crew had reported to Zaandam’s medical center with influenza-like illness symptoms. There were 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board.
"Out of an abundance of caution, on March 22 when Zaandam first saw a number of guests reporting to the medical center with influenza-like illness symptoms, we took immediate protective measures, including asking all guests to self-isolate in their staterooms and implementing all other appropriate precautions that have been developed in coordination with the CDC," the company's statement read.
Any guests who are currently ill will stay on Zaandam, along with the ship's crew. All guests and crew were given face masks Thursday and given instructions on how and when to wear them.
Zaandam was sailing a South America cruise that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile.