Since then, a total of 53 guests and 85 screw members have reported to the ship's medical centre with "influenza-like illness symptoms".
Panama will allow health care at sea for the stricken passengers of the Zaandam cruise ship, which is on its way to Panama waters after South American ports banned access amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It is understood that in an address to passengers on Friday morning, the captain of the cruise confirmed four passengers on board the ship have died from coronavirus.
The deaths come after people began reporting to the ship's medical center with flu-like symptoms. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this hard time".
The ship exchanged medical supplies with a sister ship, Rotterdam, Thursday evening prior, according to the news release. "Only those who have not been ill will be moved, and health screenings will be conducted before transferring". Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those who are over 70. On Zaandam there are four doctors and four nurses. "All guests and crew received face masks yesterday and were provided with instructions on when and how to wear them", the company said. Two of them tested positive for COVID-19, the company said.
The Zaandam liner left Buenos Aires on March 7 and was supposed to arrive last Saturday at San Antonio, near Santiago in Chile. It is now located off the coast of Panama.
The company said it is still trying to secure permission from the Panamanian government to transit the Panama Canal so it can sail to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"Since it is flu season, and (Covid-19) testing is not available on board, it is hard to determine the cause of these elevated cases at this time", the release says.
Holland America Line had announced March 17 that it was voluntarily suspending its cruise operations for 30 days 'due to the continued port closures and travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19 and in an abundance of caution'.
The ship was trying to get to Fort Lauderdale in the United States after being denied permission to dock at its original destination of Chile a week ago.