More than 1000 people are stuck on the cruise ship "Zaandam" off the coast of Florida. There are first deaths and several coronavirus sufferers. The US authorities have so far refused to enter – with reference to scarce resources.

The cruise ship "Zaandam" with four dead and several corona cases on board is still desperately looking for a port. In the US state of Florida, where the ship was supposed to arrive after a long odyssey, passengers are not allowed to go ashore.

Broward County wanted to advise today whether the ship could enter Port Everglades with 1,052 people on board. It was due to arrive in Florida tomorrow, but Governor Ron DeSantis has so far refused to dock.

He pointed out that the hospitals in Florida were already too busy because of the pandemic. He went on: "We cannot afford to have people who are not even Florida residents dumped in South Florida and use up valuable resources," he told Fox News.

Sister ship takes over healthy people from "Zaandam"

The sister ship "Rotterdam" is also on its way to Florida – whether it will be allowed to dock is also unclear. The "Rotterdam" has already taken over almost 1400 people from the "Zaandam" who are apparently healthy. According to this, 450 passengers and 602 crew members remained on the "Zaandam", including 193 passengers with flu-like symptoms. Eight corona cases have now been confirmed on the cruise ship. There are more than 300 US citizens and about 80 Germans on both ships.

The president of the operator Holland-America Line, Orlando Ashford, appealed in a newspaper article to the authorities to let the people off board. The Covid-19 disease caused by the virus puts humanity to the test. The first passengers have already died. He feared for the lives of others. "Slamming the door on these people would be a betrayal of our deepest human values," wrote Ashford.

Four dead, 190 sick

The "Zaandam" left Buenos Aires for San Antonio in Chile at the beginning of March. From there she should continue to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But from March 15, she was refused entry into South American ports – even before passengers showed the first flu-like symptoms.

Dozens of people on board have now fallen ill, and the Sars-CoV-2 virus has been detected in eight. Four passengers have now died, as the operator announced. The cause of death is not yet known. The other people on the cruise ship are healthy, but are not allowed to leave their cabins.

Difficult transit in the Panama Canal

The ship reached Panama last week. The authorities there said that at least two of the deaths were due to the virus and only allowed the "Zaandam" to sail through the Panama Canal into the Atlantic after days of negotiations.

The passengers had to turn off the lights and draw the curtains. Canal manager Ricaurte Vásquez spoke of a humanitarian decision. The passengers complained about the emotional ups and downs of the past 15 days. "We are not allowed to leave our rooms, we haven’t had any fresh air for days," said Laura Gabaroni from Orlando.

Maas wants Germans to fly out

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is now also dealing with the drama. He had expressed the hope yesterday that the two ships will soon enter the port of Fort Lauderdale and the passengers can be flown out from there. "We’re working on it, but I can’t give the all-clear yet," said the SPD politician to the "Bild" newspaper.