Norfolk couple being transferred from cruise ship where passengers died

PUBLISHED: 16:25 29 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:25 29 March 2020

Norfolk couple Heather and David Haycox. Pic: Courtesy Samantha Haycox.

Norfolk couple Heather and David Haycox. Pic: Courtesy Samantha Haycox.

Samantha Haycox

A couple from Norfolk are among hundreds of people confined to their cabins after four people died aboard a cruise ship which is stranded off the coast of Panama.

The Zaandam cruise ship, carrying dozens of guests with flu-like symptoms, arrives to the bay of Panama City. Pic: AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)The Zaandam cruise ship, carrying dozens of guests with flu-like symptoms, arrives to the bay of Panama City. Pic: AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

David and Heather Haycox, from Brooke, are on the cruise ship Zaandam, where more than a hundred fellow passengers have reported flu-like symptoms.

Two people have tested positive for coronavirus and operator Holland America Line said four passengers had died.

The ship had been due to dock in Chile, but got turned away because of concerns over coronavirus and has been refused entry from Argentina, Peru and Ecuador and Panama.

The pair, both 62, are being transferred to another ship - the Rotterdam - and will be given passage through the Panama Canal.

The Haycox's cabin on the Zaandam. Pic: David Haycox.The Haycox's cabin on the Zaandam. Pic: David Haycox.

On Saturday, Panama’s government announced they would grant those on board “humanitarian aid” and allow the ships to pass through the waterway.

None of the passengers or any members of the crew will be able to disembark on Panamanian soil, the government added.

The ship has been at sea since March 14 when it was refused permission to dock in Chile, where the cruise was due to end in San Antonio on March 21.

The couple will then have to wait to discover whether they will be permitted to disembark at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Zaandam cruise ship. Pic: AP Photo/Arnulfo FrancoThe Zaandam cruise ship. Pic: AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco

Mr Haycox said on Saturday, before he and his wife were moved onto the second ship: “We have been confined to our cabin since Tuesday. They took that precaution quite early and at that stage, we didn’t know that there had been cases on the boat. It was yesterday we found out there had been fatalities and coronavirus cases.

“We are fortunate in that we have a large cabin, which has a balcony, but some of those on the inside cabins only have portholes.

“We are getting food delivered to the cabin and talking on the phone to other passengers. We are trying to be philosophical about it and we have to say the captain and crew have been exemplary - they have gone above and beyond.”

Their daughter Samantha has been trying to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and their MP Richard Bacon to seek help from the UK government.


She said: “We’re lucky in that they are fit and healthy, but there are others on that ship who are not and this could cost lives.

“I am worried about my parents and I feel so bad for everyone. You don’t expect to go on holiday and for this to happen.”

An FCO spokesperson said: “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.”

Mr Bacon has been contacted, but has yet to comment.

Also on board are Cheryl and David Deeks, from Mendlesham in Suffolk. Mrs Deeks, 66, told Sky News: “I have been walking up and down the cabin from the bed to the door and back again.

“That’s 24 steps. I am trying to do 10,000 steps a day but it’s all becoming a bit boring now. We’re trying to lift each other when we’re fed up. Fortunately we are not fed up at the same time.”

Subscribe to our daily coronavirus newsletter, with all the latest from where you live.

MORE: Four more deaths of Norfolk patients who tested positive for coronavirus

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Related articles

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press