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Irish citizens confirmed on board cruise ship where four people have died from flu-like symptoms

Two people on board have reportedly been diagnosed with coronavirus.

MS Zaandam
MS Zaandam
Image: Shutterstock/Stories In Light

A NUMBER OF Irish citizens are on board a cruise ship where a number of people have fallen ill with flu-like symptoms off the coast of Panama.

Four people have reportedly died on the MS Zaandam which is due to dock in the United States. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is in contact and offering consular assistance to those Irish citizens on board. 

In a statement, they said “The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of the situation of the MS Zaandam, which is currently off the coast of Panama and expected to dock in the United States.

“We are in regular contact with all of the Irish citizens on board and are providing all possible consular assistance.”

Up to 130 people, including British and other European nationals, are reportedly ill on the vessel. 

Operator Holland America Line said in a post on its Facebook page that more than 130 people aboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms, and two people have tested positive for coronavirus.

Relatives of Britons on board the cruise ship anchored off the coast of Panama have expressed concern.

The statement said: “Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time.”

It did not identify the cause of death.

The ship, which had been turned away from other ports and is now being denied passage through the Panama Canal, was receiving medical supplies and medical personnel from another Holland America ship, the Rotterdam, and the company planned to begin transferring healthy passengers to that ship.

“Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those on Zaandam with inside staterooms and who are over 70,” the statement said.

There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board the Zaandam.

Late Friday, the Panama Maritime Authority said in a statement that 401 passengers not showing symptoms of the virus would be transferred to the Rotterdam.

It said medical supplies were being delivered to the Zaandam until midnight and then the shipments would resume on Saturday.

On 22 March, when a number of passengers began reporting flu-like symptoms, the ship instituted protective measures, including telling everyone to self-isolate in their cabins, the cruise line said.

On Thursday, all passengers and crew received masks and instructions on how to use them.

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Neil Bedford said his parents, Kim and Chris Bedford, from Bradford, England, left on 4 March for a flight to Argentina and boarded the ship three days later.

“They were enjoying their time,” he told the Associated Press in a Twitter message.

But on 15 March, it was announced that the cruise was over and they were turned away from several countries.

Mr Bedford said: “The meals are delivered to their rooms three times during the day. I’m not sure if they are left outside for them to collect or if someone brings them into the room. The captain is making announcements once a day but everyone seems to be getting frustrated as it’s constantly bad news.”

His parents are both in their sixties.

“They are just growing increasingly concerned with what will happen to them,” he wrote.

With reporting from PA

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