Rescue workers push a stretcher with a patient from the Zaandam of the Holland America Line cruise ship, afflicted with COVID-19, at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US, April 2, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
Two cruise ships with passengers stricken by the novel coronavirus were allowed to dock in the US state of Florida on Thursday, ending a 12-day voyage at sea desperately searching for a pier.
The Zaandam cruise ship and its sister ship Rotterdam, both owned by Holland America, docked Thursday afternoon at Port Everglades.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak on board, Chile, Argentina and Peru refused to let the Zaandam dock, and the ship was once denied access to the Panama Canal as it altered its itinerary to Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Thursday's arrival was also pushed back from the original schedule as local officials were concerned about medical availability and the safety of people on land.
Among the 1,250 passengers and 1,186 crew aboard the two ships, there have been some 200 on Zaandam who exhibited influenza-like symptoms, nine people tested positive for COVID-19, and two of the four deaths were caused by the disease. Zaandam shifted some 800 healthy passengers to Rotterdam late last week after the coronavirus erupted on the ship.
According to an agreement reached by Holland America and local authorities, 13 passengers will need shore-side medical attention, sick passengers who are not critically ill will stay on board to receive treatment until total recovery, and healthy passengers are allowed to go home by bus or plane.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who green-lighted the docking Thursday morning, called the plan "real thoughtful." Refusing to let the ships dock and unload passengers, he said Tuesday that the state's healthcare system is too overwhelmed to handle the patients on board.