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Federal government trying to bring 248 Canadians home from coronavirus-infected cruise


More than 200 Canadians remain stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of Panama where some passengers have tested positive for COVID-19 and four others have died.

The federal government is working with the Panamanian government and Holland America, which operates the Zaandam, in an effort to get 248 Canadians home.

Two passengers on board the MS Zaandam have tested positive for the disease while 53 guests and 85 crew have flu-like symptoms, Holland America said in a statement.

There are 1,243 passengers and 586 crew on board, the company said in a statement. The Zaandam is anchored off the coast of Panama and plans are underway to move healthy people to its sister ship nearby, Holland America said.

“We continue to engage with the Panamanian government, and are working with Holland America on their plans to get passengers home,” said Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Angela Savard.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday that Global Affairs was “single-mindedly” focused on what he called the “Herculean” task of bringing Canadians home who remain stuck on the cruise ship.

“Much of it involves negotiating with other countries to get permissions for cruise ships to dock, permissions for airplanes to lift off from their country when they’ve closed the airspaces,” he said.

Michael Kasprow is terrified for his 81-year-old mother, Julie, who is currently contained to her room with her friend on the Zaandam. She is healthy, he said, and had her vital signs checked yesterday.

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“My mom’s demeanour certainly changed in the past 24 hours from, ‘This will be OK,’ to hearing news that people on board had passed away,” Kasprow said.

“My mom is my superhero and is incredibly circumspect when it comes to things like that, but it’s really stressful and scary to her, and this definitely rocked her a bit.”

The crew is preparing to move his mother to the sister ship, the Rotterdam, he said.

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