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Trump reveals plans to repatriate Britons trapped on COVID-19-infected ship

Donald Trump has revealed plans to allow British passengers trapped on a coronavirus-infected cruise ship where four people have died to return home.

More than 200 UK nationals have been left stranded after an outbreak of COVID-19 on the Zaandam cruise ship, which has been refused permission to dock in the US.

Four passengers have died on the cruise ship, including 75-year-old British man John Carter whose widow has been isolated and on her own since his death.

John Carter died on the coronavirus-stricken Zaandam cruise ship
Image: John Carter died on board the Zaandam cruise ship

Mr Carter’s family have since pleaded with the US president and Florida authorities to allow the ship to dock.

In a White House briefing on Wednesday, Mr Trump confirmed plans to repatriate British passengers onboard the Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam, which is carrying those without coronavirus-symptoms.

“We’re looking at the two ships,” he said.

“We have Canada notified. A lot of Canadians, a lot of British on the ship.

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“They’re coming to take the people that are on the ship back to their homeland. Canada is coming. The UK is coming.

“We have some people who are quite sick and we’re taking care of that. I’m speaking to the governor about that a lot. It’s a tough situation.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Image: Donald Trump said the cruise passengers and crew were in a ‘tough situation’

Mr Trump added: “You can understand you have people that are sick on those ships and states – they have enough problems right now – don’t want to take them. We have to from a humane standpoint.

“We don’t have a choice. I don’t want to do that but we have to. People are dying.”

Asked if the passengers would be allowed into the US, Mr Trump replied: “We’re going to do something.

“At a minimum we’re sending medical teams on board the ships. We’re taking the Canadians off and giving them to Canadian authorities. They’re going to take them back home. The same thing with the UK.

“We have to help the people. They’re in big trouble, no matter where they’re from.”

Passengers are seen onboard Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam as it entered the Panama City bay to be assisted by the Rotterdam cruise ship with supplies, personnel and COVID-19 testing devices, eight milles off the coast of Panama City, on March 27, 2020. - Four passengers have died aboard a cruise ship carrying scores of people with flu-like symptoms that has been stranded off the Pacific coast of South America for several days, the liner company said Friday. The Zaandam, with 1,800 passengers on board, is currently in Panama's territorial waters, having been prevented from docking in several countries due to coronavirus fears. (Photo by Ivan PISARENKO / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Ivan Pisarenko has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Ivan Pisarenko] instead of [Luis Acosta]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by IVAN PISARENKO/AFP via Getty Images)
Image: Passengers are stranded on the Zaandam cruise ship

Almost 200 people have fallen ill on board the Zaandam and there are nine confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Two of the four people who died were confirmed to have the virus.

In a plea to Mr Trump, the family of Mr Carter said they have only had minimal contact with his widow as her mobile phone is no longer working.

“She is struggling to eat the limited meals and is feeling unwell,” they said.

“She is obviously distressed and extremely frightened.

The family added that it was “imperative” that the docking is authorised so that the passengers and crew can receive “the urgent assistance that they so desperately need”.

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Elderly couple locked down on cruise

Florida governor Ron DeSantis had said the state’s health care system is stretched too thin to take on the ships’ coronavirus cases, but he would accept the Florida residents on board.

“My concern is simply that we have worked so hard to make sure we have adequate hospital beds,” he said.

The Zaandam and the Rotterdam, which are owned by cruise operator Holland America, passed through the Panama Canal on Monday and were seeking to dock in Florida later this week.

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The Zaandam originally departed from Buenos Aires in Argentina on 7 March, 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 7 April.

But since 15 March, the Zaandam has assumed pariah-like status, having been denied entry at a succession of ports.

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