Coronavirus: Zaandam expected to be allowed through Panama Canal

Holland America Line is working with officials to allow coronavirus-hit cruise ship Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal.

The line was responding to reports that the ship and sister vessel Rotterdam, currently stuck off the coast of Panama, had gained permission for the transit.

Four passengers have died on Zaandam while 53 others and 85 crew were reported with flu-like symptoms. Two tested positive for Covid-19.

Groups of healthy passengers were transferred to the Rotterdam while medical supplies were provided to Zaandam on Thursday.

Almost 230 British passengers were on board Zaandam, which set off from Buenos Aires on March 7 on an itinerary which was due to end in San Antonio in Chile on March 21.

However, the vessel, carrying 1,243 passengers and 586 crew,  was barred from various ports in South America since gaining provisions in Valparaiso, Chile, on March 20-21.

HAL hopes both vessels will be able to sail to Fort Lauderdale although it remains unclear if authorities in Florida will allow them to dock.

The cruise line said on Saturday night: “We are aware of reported permission for both Zaandam and Rotterdam to transit the Panama Canal in the near future.

“We greatly appreciate this consideration in the humanitarian interest of our guests and crew.

“This remains a dynamic situation, and we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities to finalise details.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are doing all we can to help British people on board the Zaandam cruise ship.

“Our staff are in close contact with the cruise operator and the authorities in the region to ensure British people can get home safely.”

The comments came as foreign secretary Dominic Raab was reported to be poised to announce plans for commercial and charter flights to repatriate up to one million Britons stranded overseas.

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