Coronavirus: Uncertainty continues for Holland America cruise ship carrying passengers with Covid-19

Florida asked to show ‘compassion and humanity’ and allow stricken cruise ship to dock

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 01 April 2020 09:30 BST
Destination unknown: it is uncertain whether the cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam, currently off the western tip of Cuba, will be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Destination unknown: it is uncertain whether the cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam, currently off the western tip of Cuba, will be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The cruise ship Zaandam is continuing to sail towards Fort Lauderdale in Florida – though with no certainty that she will be able to dock there.

Four passengers, including one British traveller, have died on the Holland America Line vessel, with two of the victims confirmed to have had coronavirus.

Nine people on board have tested positive for Covid-19 and 189 have reported flu-like symptoms.

Only 446 passengers remain aboard the Zaandam, along with 602 crew. A further 797 passengers who were free of symptoms were transferred from the stricken ship to a sister vessel, Rotterdam.

More than 200 British people are aboard the two ships.

The vessels are currently sailing together to Florida, and are off the western tip of Cuba with about 300 miles to sail to reach Fort Lauderdale.

They are hoping to dock at the city’s Port Everglades facility.

But Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, said allowing Zaandam to dock in Fort Lauderdale would be “a mistake,” with the state’s medical resources already overstretched because of the coronavirus outbreak.

He told Fox News: “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources.”

Instead, he said: “We would like to have medical personnel dispatched to that ship.”

Late on Tuesday, President Trump intervened, indicating that he wants the Zaandam and Rotterdam to be allowed to dock: “These are two very big ships and they have a lot of people, so I am going to be speaking to the governor.“

Holland America Line said in a statement: “We are still finalising the details for where and when our guests will disembark, and are asking for the same compassion and humanity to be extended for our arrival.

“Guests have not been ashore since 14 March in Punta Arenas, Chile, and have been self-isolating in their staterooms since 22 March.”

The port itself has issued a list of demands that Holland America Line must meet in order to disembark passengers from both Zaandam and Rotterdam.

They include temperature readings for all disembarking crew and passengers, and a plan to ensure “social distancing” while they are being processed.

Passengers must have confirmed onward transport plans and will be allowed to bring only “one personal item that holds only essential items” off the ship – with Holland America Line responsible for sanitising all other luggage and delivering it to the passengers.

“The ships will not be allowed into US waters until the plan is submitted and approved,” said the port.

Florida has the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US. Mr DeSantis has issued an executive order requiring anyone flying from the New York City area, which is worst affected by the virus, to go into two weeks’ quarantine when they arrive in the state by air.

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