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Passengers on virus-hit cruise ship off Panama transferred to new vessel

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Passengers on a virus-stricken cruise liner stranded off Central America were transferred to another ship Saturday, after the US-bound vessel was given permission to pass through the Panama Canal.

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The Zaandam had been stuck in the Pacific Ocean since March 14 after dozens of the 1,800 people on board reported flu-like symptoms and several South American ports refused to let it dock.

The ships Dutch owner Holland America said Friday four passengers had died and two more had tested positive for COVID-19.

Panama on Saturday reversed its decision to block the Zaandam from its canal, and said it would be allowed to pass “to provide humanitarian help.”

Another ship, the Rotterdam, has since arrived off the coast of Panama from San Diego carrying food, medical staff, testing kits, medicine and food for the beleaguered vessel.

Passengers showing no signs of the virus were ferried from the Zaandam to the Rotterdam on Saturday, a French tourist told AFP by telephone.

“Its like emptying a bathtub with a teaspoon,” she said.

“The boats can hold about 100 people, and they are putting about half in at a time. Thats why its going slowly.”

The Zaandam cruise liner left Buenos Aires on March 7 and was supposed to arrive two weeks later at San Antonio, near Santiago in Chile.

Since a brief stop in Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia on March 14, it has been turned away from several ports after reporting that 42 people aboard were suffering from flu-like symptoms.

Then on Friday, Panamas government blocked the vessel from its waterway, cutting off its route to Florida.

“It is very difficult to maintain mental health” aboard the vessel, passenger Dante Leguizamon, from Argentina, toRead More – Source