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  1. ITV Report

Fresh hope for Norfolk couple stuck on cruise ship where four have died of Covid-19

Heather and David Haycox are hoping to continue their journey home Credit: Family picture

Two couples from Norfolk and Suffolk are stranded on board a coronavirus stricken cruise ship off the coast of Panama.

Heather and David Haycox from Brooke and Cheryl and David Deeks from Mendlesham are among 200 Brits stuck on board the Zaandam.

Four elderly passengers have died and the ship has been refused access to ports in South America.

Heather and David's daughter Sami says they left the UK on March 4th when there were no travel warnings for South America.

The cruise started in Argentina and went on to Chile, but when those countries closed their borders the ship tried to get through the Panama canal but was refused.

The Zaandam has been refused entry to ports in South America Credit: AP/ITN

David Haycox says the couple are feeling well but confined to their cabin where meals are delivered to them.

They're hoping to be transferred to a sister ship the Rotterdam which has moored up alongside them so they can continue their journey home.

We've been confined to our cabin since Tuesday with meals delivered. There's only limited TV on board, so we're reliant on very slow internet. It's worrying but I'm very aware of the rest of the world - we are far from alone with our problem, just a long way from home!

– David Haycox

The holiday was a dream chance to visit South America and particularly to see the Falkland Islands.

David Haycox at the Falkland Islands Credit: David Haycox

Operator Holland America Line said more than 130 people have reported flu-like symptoms on MS Zaandam, while four "older guests" are confirmed to have died - although their cause of death has not been given.

On Saturday, Panama's government announced they would grant those on board "humanitarian aid" and allow the ship to pass through, though no-one would be allowed to disembark.

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.

Holland America Line has begun transferring healthy passengers to a sister ship docked nearby, the Rotterdam, which has been providing the Zaandam with medical supplies.

The move comes after families of Britons on the vessel called on the UK Government to rescue their relatives.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 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."

The Chilean fjords Credit: David Haycox

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