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Brit dies on coronavirus cruise ship where Wolverhampton woman stranded

By Richard Guttridge | Wolverhampton | Coronavirus | Published:

A British national has been confirmed as one of four people to die on a cruise ship where a woman from Wolverhampton was trapped following a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

The Zaandam

Around 200 Brits were stranded on the Zaandam after Covid-19 swept through it.

Judith Glover, 72, from Merry Hill, who was on the trip of a lifetime with a friend, is among those who have since been transferred to sister ship the Rotterdam and both are heading towards Florida where it is hoped they will be allowed to dock.

They were off the west coast of Cuba on Wednesday morning.

Holland America, which operates the ships, confirmed one of the four to have died was from the UK.

In what is being described as an unfolding humanitarian crisis, so far two of the four people to have died have been confirmed to have had Covid-19, with nine people on board testing positive and 189 reporting flu-like symptoms.

No-one onboard the Zaandam, which was sailing around South America, has been on dry land since March 14 in Chile.

Ms Glover's daughter Helen White said it was "such a difficult time for the whole family".

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Judith Glover

She said: "It feels like the world is against them at the moment. Just want our mum to be back home isolating in her little flat in Wolverhampton, just nipping out for her essentials to the local shop, not stranded on a ship in the ocean at the other side of the world with no idea of how and when she will get back home."

Ms White added: "Her conditions on board seem to be better on the ship she is on now, the Rotterdam.

"On the other ship she was on, Zaandam, she was in an inside cabin with a porthole that didn’t open and she was quite limited for space, and got no fresh air for many days, until they were allowed on deck for some air."

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The Governor of Florida is reluctant to allow disembarkation for the more than 1,000 people on board the Zaandam, but US President Donald Trump appears set to overrule him.

Governor Ron DeSantis told a news conference on Tuesday that Florida’s healthcare resources were already stretched too thin by the coronavirus outbreak to take on the Zaandam’s caseload.

The US Coast Guard has said if local authorities cannot agree on a docking plan, the matter will go to the the federal government for decision.

Mr DeSantis said he had been in contact with the White House about ferrying medical supplies to the ships.

“Just to drop people off at the place where we’re having the highest number of cases right now just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Mr DeSantis told a news conference.

However, Mr Trump said at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing that he would ask Mr DeSantis to allow the ships to dock in Florida.

“They’re dying on the ship,” Mr Trump said. “I’m going to do what’s right. Not only for us, but for humanity.”

Holland America president Orlando Ashford wrote an opinion column in the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper to plead with officials and residents to let the passengers disembark.

“The Covid-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our common humanity,” he wrote. “To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values.”

The Zaandam originally departed from Buenos Aires on March 7 — a day before the US State Department advised against cruise travel and before any substantial restrictions were in place in Florida.

The ship had been scheduled to stop in San Antonio, Chile, then complete another 20-day cruise to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on April 7.

But since March 15, the Zaandam has assumed pariah-like status, having been denied entry at a succession of ports.

Zaandam passengers said they were asked to keep their rooms dark and leave their curtains closed as they passed through the Panama Canal.

Virus Outbreak Florida
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference about the Zaandam on Monday as reporters observe social distancing (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Holland America said that, after being denied entry to a number of ports, the Zaandam was forced to rendezvous with its sister ship and the Rotterdam took on nearly 1,400 people who appeared healthy. This left 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam.

The company said the two ships would remain together for the rest of the journey, and guests on both vessels would remain in their rooms until disembarkation.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has died on board the Zaandam and are in touch with cruise ship operator. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

“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.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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