(Fort Lauderdale) President of the cruise line Holland America, which operates two ships carrying four dead and dozens of patients with coronavirus symptoms, warned on Tuesday that the toll could worsen if the ships were not allowed to dock in Florida.
France Media Agency
“Four passengers have already died and I fear more lives may be at risk,” wrote Orlando Ashford in an open letter to local newspaper Sun Sentinel.
“To 30 March, 76 passengers and 117 crew members “of Zaandam, l 'One of the two boats, “suffered from flu-like illnesses,” he said. “These are unhappy souls who were unintentionally caught in health, political and border restrictions that quickly swept the world.”
“Nations have rightly focused on the COVID crisis – 19 that they cross ”, he added. “But they turned their backs on the thousands of people who were drifting at sea.”
The cruise ship Zaandam and its assistant ship Rotterdam, sent to its rescue to separate the passengers into two boats, want to dock on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, at 50 kilometers north of Miami.
Local authorities object, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday that he did not want the contaminated people on board the ships “returned to him”.
Its main argument is that the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward, where Fort Lauderdale is located, concentrate 60% of over 5000 cases of state coronavirus and require hospital teams to care for their residents.
Florida cannot allow “non-residents to be dumped here […] to use our precious resources,” he said.
Confined alone in his cabin for eight days, Yves, a Frenchman from 73 who does not wish to give his name begins to “go around in circles”.
“It’s a blow we land, a blow no,” he told AFP, deploring the lack of information. “It's insecure as possible, you never know where, when, how …”
As for his health, he was judged to be in good shape after “a thermometer hit on the forehead”, but would be reassured by a real screening. “How do you know if you are coughing because you have coronavirus or because of air conditioning?” He asked, his voice hoarse.
” What a pain ”
In an attempt to convince the Broward authorities to let the ships dock, William Burke, vice president of the Carnival company which operates Holland America, presented them with an action plan on Tuesday.
He proposed to transfer the symptomless passengers, many of whom are currently traveling in Rotterdam, to flights to Europe and the West Coast of the United States, and to continue dealing with those who are sick aboard the Zaandam, until they heal.
“We have several artificial respirators, extra oxygen, we have the right equipment,” he said, adding that he also has doctors and nurses. He added that 11 coronavirus tests had been performed and nine were positive.
Broward County authorities are expected to make a decision on the mooring of the boats on Thursday morning, in cooperation with the port authorities, Mayor Dale Holness announced.
“Let these people out as quickly as possible,” pleaded local elected representative Barbara Sharief. “They deserve to be treated humanely.”
According to Orlando Ashford, there are 1243 passengers, including 305 Americans and 257 Canadians, and 1247 crew members on the two ships, which are sailing through the Caribbean without a safe destination after several Latin American ports have refused them assistance.
The Zaandam left Buenos Aires on March 7 with around 1800 people of several nationalities on board, bound for Chile.
He crossed the Panama Canal this weekend and is expected to arrive off Florida Wednesday evening or Thursday. “When we crossed the canal, we were asked to close the curtains and turn off the lights,” said Yves, without knowing the origin of the directives. And to breathe: “In what galley did we embark …”