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Four Dead, Over 100 Sick on Cruise Ship Off Panama Canal

Panamanian Navy Police navigate near the anchored Zaandam cruise ship, carrying some guests with flu-like symptoms, after it arrived at the bay of Panama City, March 27, 2020, amid the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus.

Four people have died and another 138 are sick on a Holland America cruise ship currently near the Panama Canal but stuck in limbo during the coronavirus pandemic.

Holland America Line said in a statement Friday that two people aboard the Zaandam ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, while the other sick passengers have complained of flu-like symptoms, which are similar to those caused by the virus. The company did not say what caused the deaths of the four passengers or how many passengers they have tested for the virus.

Holland America said passengers who were not sick were being transferred to another vessel.

Passengers aboard the Zaandam started reporting flu-like symptoms over the weekend, according to the company. They have been confined to their staterooms since Sunday, with crew members delivering meals to guests. Medical supplies and extra medical personnel were brought to the ship Thursday.

The company said it was trying to get permission to transit through the Panama Canal to travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but it is not clear if the vessel will be allowed to dock in that city. The ship had already been denied a request to allow passengers to disembark in Chile on March 16.

The cruise set sail from Buenos Aries, Argentina, on March 7, before Holland America Line suspended its global operations for 30 days amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The last time passengers were allowed off the vessel was in Punta Arenas, Chile, on March 14. The ship was scheduled to end its voyage at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21 and has 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board.