A cruise ship with 42 people onboard experiencing ‘flu-like symptoms’ is now headed for Florida as all 1,243 guests are told to isolate in their rooms.
Thirteen guests and 29 crew members have fallen ill on board Holland America’s Zaandam, in the latest outbreak to hit a cruise liner packed full of holidaymakers.
The liner set sail on a two-week voyage from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 – 10 days before the company canceled all voyages over fears of an outbreak – and was due to arrive in Chile on March 21.
The Zandaam is now on route to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to dock March 30, after being stranded at sea when other ports turned it away amid fears it contains coronavirus patients.
Thirteen guests and 29 crew members have fallen ill on board Holland America’s Zaandam (pictured), in the latest outbreak to hit a cruise liner packed full of holidaymakers
The extent of the possible outbreak is not known as there are no tests onboard, meaning sick people have simply been isolated and their close contacts told to quarantine.
All 1,243 passengers have been told to stay in their rooms.
Of the 586 crew members, those not essential to running the ship are also in quarantine and essential staff are self-isolating when not working.
‘Since it is flu season, and COVID-19 testing is not available on board, it is difficult to determine the cause of these elevated cases at this time,’ the company said in a statement.
‘The safety and well-being of our guests and crew is one of our highest priorities.’
The liner set sail on a two-week voyage from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was due to arrive in Chile on March 21. It is now off Valparaiso, Chile, and heading to Fort Lauderdale
The Zandaam is on route to Port Everglades (above) in Fort Lauderdale to dock March 30, after being stranded at sea when it was granted and then refused permission to disembark in Chile
The ship had been granted permission to dock in Punta Arenas in Chile but when it arrived on March 14, permission was refused and passengers were prevented from leaving.
It stopped in Valparaiso, Chile, to take on more provisions and fuel but people were ordered to stay on board.
Passengers on board the ship have told of their concern at being imprisoned on board the ship.
Chris Joiner told CBC he had asked the Canadian embassy in Chile for help, saying: ‘Get us the hell off this ship.’
Toronto resident Michael Kasprow said he’s worried about his elderly mother and her friend, both in their 80s, who are stuck onboard and are at greater risk if they contract the disease.
‘We’ve seen what it can do on a cruise ship, and I just feel like they’re sitting ducks,’ he told CBC.
Another couple spoke of their fears that, even once they dock, they may be stranded away from home due to escalating travel restrictions and flight bans.
‘How will we get home from a port with flights diminishing by the day?’ said Norma Kirkham, 63, from Victoria, Canada. ‘Where will we stay? Will [Holland America] still be looking after us?’
Concerns are further mounting as it emerged the ship is yet to gain permission to enter the Panama Canal, the route it needs to pass through to get to Fort Lauderdale.
Port Everglades spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy also told South Florida Sun Sentinel that is was ‘too early’ to say if passengers would be allowed off the ship at Port Everglades.
‘The ship is still pretty far away, so it is too early to determine,’ she said.
She said the decision would be made by the Unified Command currently in charge at the port, as well as the CDC, Customs and Border Patrol, the Florida Department of Health, the US Coast Guard, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the county’s port authority.
The Zandaam is the latest in a string of cruise ships stuck at sea after being turned away by nations’ ports desperate to protect their own residents from the deadly virus.
Passengers on board the cruise line’s Maasdam ship have been turned away from Hawaii despite no one reporting symptoms of coronavirus.
In the worst cruise ship crisis so far, 706 people tested positive on the Diamond Princess after Japanese authorities imposed a two-week lockdown in Yokohama. At least seven people have died after they were taken to hospital from the doomed vessel
Cruise ships have become particular hotbeds for the virus, with a number of liners being doomed by fatal outbreaks.
In the worst cruise ship crisis so far, 706 people tested positive on the Diamond Princess after Japanese authorities imposed a two-week lockdown in Yokohama.
At least seven people have died after they were taken to hospital from the doomed vessel.
Passengers were confined to their cabins during the lockdown but several countries eventually lost patience with Japan and airlifted their citizens home.
The Grand Princess ship was struck by an outbreak, when two passengers and 19 crew members tested positive for coronavirus in early March
Japan was widely criticised for its handling of the ship, with one disease expert saying the quarantine was ‘completely inadequate’ after viewing the conditions on board.
Japan had initially impounded the ship after a passenger who left the ship in Hong Kong in January subsequently tested positive.
Weeks later another Caribbean Princess ship was struck by an outbreak, when two passengers and 19 crew members on the Grand Princess cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus in early March.
The ship docked in Oakland, California, on March 9 with 3,500 on board and people were repatriated and sent to army bases for quarantine.
The number of confirmed US cases from the ship has since risen to 28.
The first passengers from the Grand Princess have begun leaving their 14-day quarantine and returning home.
Travelers on board the Braemar arrive in Heathrow March 19. This came after 28 people self-isolated on the ship after either testing positive for the coronavirus or displaying flu-like symptoms
Across the pond, 680 mostly British passengers were repatriated from Havana to Heathrow last week after they were stuck onboard a cruise ship.
Cuba allowed MS Braemar, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, to dock in its waters after several Caribbean island nations – including Commonwealth states Barbados and the Bahamas – declined UK requests.
This came after 28 people self-isolated on the ship after either testing positive for the coronavirus or displaying flu-like symptoms.
SCIENTISTS FIND TRACES OF CORONAVIRUS IN DIAMOND PRINCESS CABINS TWO WEEKS ON FROM PASSENGER EVACUATION
The coronavirus could last on surfaces for up to 17 days, according to research on the disease-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Traces of the deadly infection were found in the deserted cabins more than two weeks after passengers were evacuated.
The gigantic ship became a hotbed of COVID-19 cases in February, with more than 700 patients known to have caught the virus on the cruise.
The study, published by US health officials, suggests the virus is capable of sticking to surfaces for longer than previously thought.
Until now, evidence has shown the coronavirus can last on plastic surfaces for three days.
Researchers, led by Takuya Yamagishi at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan, looked at the rooms of infected passengers aboard the Diamond Princess, including both those who showed symptoms and those who didn’t.
The findings were published on March 23 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The authors wrote: ‘SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted.
‘Although these data cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces, further study of fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 aboard cruise ships is warranted.’
There isn’t any evidence so far that old traces of the virus can lead to new cases of COVID-19.
But health officials have warned repeatedly that people can catch the illness by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face.
Traces of the deadly virus were found in the cabins more than two weeks after passengers were evacuated and before a deep clean. Pictured, a general picture of a cabin on the ship