• The MS Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship dealing with an outbreak of respiratory illness onboard, cannot enter the Panama Canal with cases of COVID-19 on.board, according to a statement put out by the Panama Canal Authority.
  • Four passengers have died aboard the ship, and Holland America confirmed that two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The cruise line also confirmed there are 138 sick passengers and crew members on board the Zaandam.
  • “We saw the announcement and tweet by Panama Canal Authority and are working on alternative options,” a Holland America spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.
  • Are you a cruise-ship passenger or employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Panama Canal Authority has ruled the MS Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship with two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board, cannot enter the canal due to health and safety concerns.

“Following protocol of Panama’s Ministry of Health, if a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal,” the Panama Canal Authority said in a statement sent to Business Insider on March 27.

“Like all vessels that use the Panama Canal, the Zaandam had to comply with the regulations on health and prevention of contagious diseases,” a spokesperson said in a statement sent to Business Insider on March 28.

The Holland America previously considered having the ship sail through the Panama Canal in order to head back to Fort Lauderdale for a March 30 arrival.

“We saw the announcement and tweet by Panama Canal Authority and are working on alternative options,” a Holland America spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement on March 28.

The Zaandam has been stranded off the coast of South America and Central America after different ports began closing to cruise ships due to coronavirus concerns. A bout of respiratory disease then broke out on the ship, prompting 138 sick passengers and crew members to report to the vessel’s medical center.

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Holland America confirmed that four passengers have died on board, and two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19.

The cruise on the Zaandam was scheduled to last 14 days, embarking from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7. For some passengers, the cruise would end after 14 days in San Antonio, Chile. For others, it was due to April 7 in Fort Lauderdale. Those plans were diverted because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the cruise ship rerouted its course to sail north to an undetermined destination.

In a statement released on March 27, a Holland America spokesperson said that the Zaandam had rendezvoused with its sister ship the MS Rotterdam off the coast of Panama.

“We received approval from Panamanian authorities to conduct ship-to-ship operations at anchor between the two vessels,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

On March 22, the cruise line released a statement saying that its intention was to have the Zaandam head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 30, where it was initially supposed to arrive on April 7. At that time, the Holland America spokesperson said in a statement that the company was “still working on securing a reservation to transit the Panama Canal.”

“Alternative options are also being developed,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Are you a cruise ship employee or passenger? Email acain@businessinsider.com.

Read the Panama Canal Authority’s full March 28 statement:

Holland America’s ship Zaandam arrived Friday, March 27 to Panamanian waters. Like all vessels that use the Panama Canal, the Zaandam had to comply with the regulations on health and prevention of contagious diseases.

Holland America confirmed there were COVID-19 cases on board, and following the protocol laid out by the Ministry of Health (MINSA) , the vessel was placed under quarantine and cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal.

The Panama Canal will continue to follow MINSA’s guidance as it relates to vessel transits and after a thorough vessel inspection is completed by the health authorities.

Read the Panama Canal Authority’s full March 27 statement:

Holland America’s ship Zaandam arrived Friday, March 27 to Panamanian waters. Like all vessels that use the Panama Canal, the Zaandam had to comply with the regulations on health and prevention of contagious diseases. Following protocol of Panama’s Ministry of Health, if a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal. All ships transiting the Panama Canal require personnel, including line handlers, boarding officers, and Panama Canal pilots, to board the ship throughout the transit in order to ensure a safe passage throughout the waterway. These protocols are in place to safeguard our customers and workforce.