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Coronavirus: More than 200 British passengers confirmed on flu-hit cruise ship

Almost 230 British passengers are among those stuck on board a cruise ship off the coast of Panama after being barred from ports in South America.

More people on board have reported with flu-like symptoms and there is growing frustration among passengers about when and where they will be allowed to get off and whether repatriation flights back to the UK will be available.

A British passenger on the Holland America Line ship Zaandam told Travel Weekly that 56 passengers and 89 crew members were now ill.

This is an increase on the 30 passengers and 47 crew HAL confirmed on Wednesday.

Passengers have been in lockdown in their cabins since Sunday as Zaandam awaits the delivery of Covid-19 testing kits and other supplies from another ship in the fleet sailing from Puerto Vallarta in Mexico today.

The passenger, who works in the travel industry, said people were now being allowed out of their cabins for half an hour at a time to go on deck provided they abide by social distancing rules.

However, the passenger said: “I can just see us being stuck on here for weeks.

“We’re coping quite well but don’t feel we are being told the whole story.

“I am just very concerned we will not be allowed to dock or to disembark.

“The plan was we would do our 14 days in quarantine on the boat so last time anyone was off the ship was sat 14th March in Puntas Arenas.”

Some British passengers on the ship are understood to have booked with companies including Titan Tours and Imagine Cruising.

HAL confirmed that all ports along Zaandam’s route had been closed to cruise ships.

The vessel, carrying 1,243 passengers and 586 crew, left Buenos Aires on March 7 with the South America itinerary originally due to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21.

“However, due to global health concerns, Holland America Line made the decision to suspend its global cruise operations for 30 days and end its current cruises in progress as quickly as possible and so guests could return home,” the company said.

“Zaandam provisioned in Valparaiso, Chile, March 20-21 and has plenty of food and fuel for the voyage to the US.

“Our intention is to proceed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for arrival on March 30, however plans are still being finalised.

“Alternative options also are being developed. No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile.”

Passengers and crew are being offered complimentary telephone counselling services.

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