Four passengers on ship off South America have died: cruise line

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Four passengers have died aboard a Holland America cruise ship that is making its way to South Florida.

The ship has been at sea since March 14, after Chile refused it permission to dock and disembark passengers as much of the world grapples with containing the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Holland America Line said in a post on its Facebook page that more than 130 people aboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms while the Panamanian government reports 124 who are ill. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this hard time", the cruise company said in a written statement.

The ship exchanged medical supplies with a sister ship, Rotterdam, Thursday evening prior, according to the news release. "Only those who have not been ill will be moved, and health screenings will be conducted before transferring", it said in a statement. Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those who are over 70. Any guests who are now ill, or in isolation as a close contact, and all crew will remain on the Zaandam.

Health authorities announced that they would inspect the ship when it anchors in the Bay of Panama and will subsequently issue an opinion on the health situation aboard. On Zaandam there are four doctors and four nurses. 'This operation was requested in support of the human beings aboard with cold symptoms, and seeks to be able to transfer medical supplies to them, ' stated the AMP, which concluded that this does not represent a danger to Panamanians. The cruise line said two people have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 140 people said they were feeling sick.

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"If there are confirmed cases of COVID-19, the ship has to go into quarantine", Vásquez was quoted by Telemetro Reporta.

The ship was trying to get to Fort Lauderdale in the U.S. after being denied permission to dock at its original destination of Chile a week ago.

There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board the Zaandam.

The ocean liner Zaandam left Buenos Aires on March 7 and was supposed to arrive in San Antonio, near Santiago in Chile, last Saturday. The company has since suspended global cruise operations for 30 days and made a decision to end current cruises as quickly as possible.

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