Cruise ship Zaandam starts transit through Panama Canal
Buenos Aires - A cruise ship with about 1 800 people on board, including at least two infected with the novel coronavirus, has started its transit through the Panama Canal, officials said on Sunday.
The Zaandam started transiting through the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast on Sunday with its sister ship Rotterdam, the administration of the Panama Canal said.
The health ministry in Panama had approved the passage earlier on, but there were some delays while details were being sorted out.
Officials in Panama said no crew or passengers would be permitted to disembark.
The ships' owner, Holland America, had earlier said that four elderly people died on the liner and that a total of 53 passengers and crew had flu-like symptoms.
The Zaandam, which was on a cruise to South American destinations, left the Argentine capital Buenos Aires on March 7 and was originally scheduled to ultimately travel to San Antonio, Chile, on March 21.
Due to global health concerns, the Holland America Line decided to suspend its global cruise operations for 30 days and end cruises in progress as quickly as possible to allow passengers to return home.
No-one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile, according to the Holland America Line.
The Zaandam was to continue on to Fort Lauderdale in the US state of Florida.
"No assurances have been given that they will be escorted from the ship to either a treatment facility or placed in quarantine," Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said in a tweet on Sunday.
"This is completely unacceptable," he added.dpa