Coronavirus: Hundreds of British passengers stranded on cruise ship where four people have died | UK News

Hundreds of Britons are stranded on a cruise ship where four people have died after fellow passengers tested positive for coronavirus.

Cheryl Deeks, from the village of Mendelsham in Suffolk, has told Sky News she is “on edge all the time” after being confined to her cabin since Sunday.

Mrs Deeks, 66, said she and her husband, David, are among more than 220 passengers from the UK on board the MS Zaandam.

The Zaandam cruise ship, left, carrying some guests with flu-like symptoms, is anchored shortly after it arrived to the bay of Panama City
Four passengers have died on the MS Zaandam

The cruise ship, operated by Holland America Line, is anchored off the coast of Panama with dozens of guests suffering from influenza-like symptoms.

At least two of them have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Holland America Line confirmed on Friday that four “older guests” had died on the MS Zaandam.

The age and nationalities of those who died is unclear.

Canadian passengers Chris & Anna Joiner ask for help onboard the MS Zaandam
Canadian passengers Chris & Anna Joiner have also pleaded for help

The cruise ship has been at sea since 14 March after Chile refused permission for it to dock.

Panama’s government also denied the the MS Zaandam permission to dock on Wednesday.

On Friday night, coronavirus testing kits were brought onto the ship from the MS Rotterdam, another vessel operated by Holland America.

Mrs Deeks, who is also on the trip with her 73-year-old sister Wendy, said only passengers showing symptoms have been tested.

She added there are not enough kits for all of the 1,243 holidaymakers and 586 crew members on board.

The holidaymaker, who celebrated her birthday on the ship on 13 March, said: “We’ve been confined to our cabin since Sunday.

“It’s wearing us down, we’re just going stir crazy now really.

“We’re totally stuck in the cabin, from the door to the bed and back is 24 steps.

“So I’m trying to do my 10,000 steps a day, and I’m walking backward and forwards doing 24 steps.”

Mrs Deeks added that crew members leave their meals outside of their cabin before knocking the door and walking away as a precaution.

The ship’s voyage was supposed to have ended in San Antonio, Chile, on 21 March.

The Zaandam cruise ship is anchored after it arrived to the bay of Panama City
The cruise ship is anchored off the coast of Panama after Panamanian authorities denied it access

Holland America Line has said the MS Zaandam was then scheduled to head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after passing through the Panama Canal, and could arrive there on 30 March.

But Panamanian authorities said a transit of the canal would depend on a health inspection of passengers.

Mrs Deeks is now unsure of when her trip will come to an end.

She said: “I think that’s the biggest problem because we’re on edge all the time.

“We’re physically well, but mentally we’re quite stressed not knowing if we had a plan, if we knew for definite what was going to happen.

“I know they can’t tell us, but it’s just the not knowing that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

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Mrs Deeks said passengers over 70 are being moved on to the MS Rotterdam, meaning her sister Wendy will be leaving the MS Zaandam along with two friends.

The British holidaymaker continued: “I am concerned about that to be honest.

“I am worried about the fact we are being split up.”

Mrs Deeks has said she is unsure of how many people are ill on the vessel or what symptoms they are showing because they have been confined to their cabins.

She added that it appears the outbreak has not caused other passengers to panic.

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Ian Rae, a London-based Scotsman on the ship with his wife, said most passengers were coping “pretty well” despite being in self-isolation since last Sunday.

“It’s probably not an awful lot worse than the people back in the UK or anywhere else in the world at the moment,” Mr Rae, a 73-year-old grandfather of four, told Reuters.

Mr Rae said he understood 229 British passengers were on board. Other guests included Americans, Canadians and Australians as well as Germans, Italians, French, Spanish and New Zealanders.

A Foreign Office spokesperson 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.”

Sky News

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