Family of Brit who died on coronavirus-stricken cruise ship appeal to Trump for help

1 April 2020, 22:25

The Zaandam is embroiled in a bitter dispute over plans to disembark passengers in the US
The Zaandam is embroiled in a bitter dispute over plans to disembark passengers in the US. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The family of a British man who died on board the coronavirus-stricken Zaandam cruise ship have appealed to Donald Trump to allow the ship to dock.

John Carter, 75, died on March 22 after falling unwell, and is among four people to have died on the ship.

Two of those are confirmed to have had Covid-19, with nine people on board testing positive and 189 reporting flu-like symptoms.

The Zaandam, which is carrying more than 200 British nationals, is embroiled in a bitter dispute over plans to disembark passengers in the US.

It passed through the Panama Canal on Monday after being denied entry to several ports, and is seeking to dock in Florida later this week.

President Trump participates in a news briefing by members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House
President Trump participates in a news briefing by members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House. Picture: PA

A statement from Mr Carter's family said: "As a family we send a plea to Donald Trump and the Florida Authorities to authorise the docking of the MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam cruise liners in Fort Lauderdale. It is imperative that the passengers and crew receive the urgent assistance that they so desperately need.

"His wife remains on the Zaandam currently. She has been isolated on her own since his death in the cabin that she shared with John.

“She has only minimal contact with her family as her mobile phone is no longer working.

“She is struggling to eat the limited meals and is feeling unwell. She is obviously distressed and extremely frightened.

"They were both in good health and did not foresee the terrible situation that has arisen. John became unwell aboard the ship and passed away on the 22nd March 2020.

“We do not know the cause of his death at present."

Passengers, one wearing a protective face mask, look out from the Zaandam cruise ship
Passengers, one wearing a protective face mask, look out from the Zaandam cruise ship. Picture: PA

Local authorities in Broward County, Florida - one of the locations the ship has been denied permission to dock - have urged the US Federal Government to step in.

The state's governor 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 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 said 73 guests and 116 crew members on the Zaandam had reported influenza-like illness symptoms.

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.

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."

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