The majority of the passengers are now to be flown out. Some sufferers, on the other hand, receive medical care on-site or remain on board for quarantine, as the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Dean Trantalis said.
The shipping company Holland America Line, which operates both “Zaandam” and “Rotterdam”, announced on Monday that in addition to the four dead passengers, some were also in mortal danger.
Together, the two ships had around 2,500 passengers and crew members, including 311 US citizens, 52 of them from Florida, according to the shipping company. There were originally 79 Germans on the “Zaandam”, most of them were moved to the “Rotterdam”, where there should be no passengers who tested positive for the virus.
According to the shipping company on Wednesday, more than 230 passengers and crew members had developed flu-like symptoms on both ships since March 22. 45 passengers are sick and unable to travel. They could stay on board and be isolated there until they recover.
However, individuals, estimated at less than ten, urgently need medical attention on land. Around 1,200 passengers without symptoms could take the trip home under the necessary protective measures. The shipping company announced that neither of the crew members of both ships would disembark.
The “Zaandam” expired on March 7th in Buenos Aires. The cruise was originally scheduled to last a month and end on April 7th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Because of the worldwide spread of the corona virus, the end should be brought forward to March 21st: The “Zaandam” should then arrive in Chilean San Antonio, where a stopover was planned anyway.
But Chile closed all cruise ship ports because of the pandemic!
Only after long negotiations was the passage through the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean approved. Several Latin American countries had refused to allow Zaandam to enter their ports.
Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis had initially resisted the ships calling at his state. He argued that medical resources in the region also affected by the virus should be kept available for the local population.
Trump overturns Florida governor
However, US President Donald Trump intervened and promised help to the passengers. “From a humanitarian perspective, we have no choice,” Trump said on Wednesday evening (local time) at the White House: “People die. We have to do something.”
After a phone call to Trump, DeSantis had given in and pointed out that there were also Americans on board – including people from Florida. That was originally not clear and changed the situation.
On Thursday, DeSantis told Fox News that it had instructed the National Guard to help evacuate the ships, particularly to keep Florida citizens safe. The passengers should not simply go ashore on their own: “It will all be controlled.”
At a press conference, the governor said the foreigners would be flown on charter planes without coming into contact with the local population. Mayor Trantalis wrote on Twitter that various protective measures had been agreed so that infected people would not come into contact with the local population.
The majority of the passengers, who are not ill and have no symptoms, should be brought directly to airplanes by bus to leave Fort Lauderdale. A small group of seriously ill passengers are being driven to local hospitals. Those with mild illnesses or symptoms should remain in quarantine on board.
The shipping company thanked Trump, DeSantis and the other authorities concerned with the case. “These travelers could have been any of us or our families unexpectedly trapped in the unprecedented closure of global borders that happened within a few days and without warning,” said Orlando Ashford, CEO of the shipping company. “We are so happy that we can bring our guests home and help the few who need additional medical help.”