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The Zaandam cruise ship has received permission to pass through the Panama Canal on its way to Port Everglades, where it will unload its increasingly sick passengers and crew.
The Panama Canal Authority announced the decision, a reversal of its previous stance, late Saturday night in a statement.
“The ship will be scheduled for transit after entering Canal waters, which has not occurred to-date. According to the Zaandam’s itinerary, the vessel was originally scheduled to transit on April 1,” the statement read.
The permission comes with an agreement that passengers and crew of the ship aren’t allowed to exit the ship and enter Panama.
“Panama will guarantee bio-security measures to protect the personnel who will participate in this manoeuvre and thus safeguard the health of Panamanians,” the government said in a statement reported by Reuters.
In a statement late Saturday, Holland America Line, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., said a second ship, the Rotterdam, will be able to transit the canal as well.
The company transferred hundreds of passengers from the Zaandam to the Rotterdam with little more than a temperature check and short questionnaire about whether they had symptoms of the coronavirus.
On Friday, Holland America Line said nearly 150 passengers and crew aboard the Zaandam were ill. Four elderly passengers have died and two people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The company did not answer questions Saturday about the destination of the Rotterdam or offer updated numbers for the sick and COVID-positive on board.
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