214 Brits who were trapped on two coronavirus-hit cruise ships in Florida finally land back at Heathrow after being trapped on board for days
- MS Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships docked in Florida on Thursday
- Officials had been reluctant to let them dock over fears of Covid-19 patients
- President Trump intervened to allow docking on humanitarian grounds
- Charter flight of 214 UK passengers touched down at Heathrow earlier today
UK nationals who were trapped on board two cruise liners embroiled in a bitter coronavirus dispute have arrived back in the country.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed a charter flight carrying 214 British passengers from the Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships had touched down at Heathrow.
The holidaymakers had been on the liners when they became embroiled in a dispute after Florida officials were reluctant to let the ships dock for fear that taking more Covid-19 patients would further burden the state’s already-stretched hospitals.
Holland America Line guests disembarked the Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam in Florida, US, on Friday following a battle between federal and state authorities.
UK nationals who were trapped on board two cruise liners embroiled in a bitter coronavirus dispute have arrived back at Heathrow earlier today
The holidaymakers had been on the liners when they became embroiled in a dispute after Florida officials were reluctant to let the ships dock for fear that taking more Covid-19 patients
The Zaandam is pictured arriving in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Thursday. The coronavirus-stricken ship is carrying 1,045 passengers and crew
Many of the 200 UK nationals caught up in the saga boarded a charter flight which departed Fort Lauderdale airport shortly after 3am local time on Saturday.
The flight, via Spanish charter company Privilege Style, landed at London Heathrow at 4.34pm.
Almost all passengers were seen wearing facemasks as they made their way through the arrivals lounge.
Messages posted on a Facebook group created for passengers to share updates state that some people have not been allowed to fly home yet.
The flight, via Spanish charter company Privilege Style, landed at London Heathrow at 4.34pm
Almost all passengers were seen wearing facemasks as they made their way through the arrivals lounge
Holland America Line had previously said guests with coronavirus symptoms ‘will remain on board and disembark at a later date’.
Charter flights are also repatriating guests to Toronto, Atlanta, San Francisco, Paris and Frankfurt, according to US news website Business Insider.
More than a dozen Covid-19 cases were reported on the Zaandam, plus some 190 people with flu symptoms.
Four people have died aboard the Zaandam, including two officially diagnosed with the coronavirus.
The MS Rotterdam is pictured pulling in to port after sister ship Zaandam. The boat is pictured off the coast of Florida ahead of its arrival in the city. 1,381 people are on board the ship
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that that he was only interested accepting the 49 Floridians on board the cruise ships
During a White House press conference, Trump said of the cruise ships’ passengers: ‘They’re dying, so we have to do something’
Earlier this week, the ship offloaded its healthy passengers onto the Rotterdam.
Florida officials were reluctant to allow the ships to dock – for fear that taking more Covid-19 patients would further burden the state’s already-stretched hospitals – until US president Donald Trump intervened to approve the docking on humanitarian grounds.
The four included 75-year-old Briton John Carter, who died on March 22. His cause of death has yet to be officially revealed, but he was reported to have been on a ventilator in his last days.
The Zaandam, which began its cruise in Buenos Aires on March 7, was refused entry to several Latin American ports after its coronavirus cases emerged.
On Friday, passengers from both ships were finally allowed to touch dry land in Fort Lauderdale.
Fourteen critically-ill patients were wheeled off the Zaandam on stretchers to be taken to local hospitals before their fellow passengers disembarked.
Asymptomatic patients, after being screened and cleared by paramedics, were taken by bus directly to the local airport, escorted by police officers on motorcycles.
Before disembarking from the ships, passengers received instructions to wear face masks at all times when travelling and to go immediately into 14 days of self-quarantine when they arrived home.
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