Virus-hit Caribbean cruise ship with 600 British passengers will head to Cuba after Barbados refused to let it dock because five people have tested positive for coronavirus
- Passengers have been stuck on the Braemar since five people tested positive
- Another 35 people have been placed in isolation after having flu-like symptoms
- A source in Cuba said the country could accept ship on ‘humanitarian’ grounds
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Hundreds of British passengers who are stranded on a Caribbean cruise over coronavirus fears could be allowed to disembark in Cuba, it has emerged.
Passengers have been stuck on the cruise ship Braemar since five people tested positive for the virus on the island of Curacao last week.
The ship is currently anchored near the Bahamas where officials have refused to let it dock but are offering supplies of food and medication.
The impasse has sparked fears that the ship would have to sail all the way back to the UK with virus patients on board.
But last night a diplomatic source in Cuba told CNN that the government there was willing to accept the ship out of ‘humanitarian concerns’.
Passengers on the cruise ships Braemar – pictured when it stopped in Jamaica earlier this month – could be allowed to disembark in Cuba, a diplomatic source has said
The Cuban source said the country was willing to take in the ship in a ‘shared effort to confront and stop the spread of the pandemic’.
The government in Havana ‘comprehends the difficult situation these passengers find themselves in’, the diplomatic source said.
The ship has already been turned away by Barbados and the Bahamas after four passengers and one crew member tested positive. They are now in isolation on board the ship.
Another 16 passengers and 19 crew members are also in isolation after showing influenza-like symptoms, including a doctor.
Bars and restaurants on the ship remain open, but its ‘evening entertainment venue’ has been closed over health fears.
Guests can still watch performances on a screen from their cabins.
‘On the advice of health officials, we are encouraging guests to practice social distancing and other measures advised by Public Health England,’ staff say.
Operated by British cruise firm Fred Olsen, the ship is carrying 682 mostly British passengers and 381 crew.
It is currently anchored around 25 miles off the coast of Freeport, where supplies of food and medication have been sent.
Relatives had previously voiced fears that the ship would have to sail all the way back to Britain with virus patients on board.
‘You have got the absolute target audience of the most vulnerable and at-risk on that ship,’ said Helen Littlewood, 39, from Norfolk, whose 74-year-old mother is on board.
‘My mum has high blood pressure, respiratory problems and she suffers from bronchitis and is asthmatic. She is one of hundreds.
‘I am absolutely terrified that they might have to sail across the Atlantic. No one has told us medically how they would cope if more people get sick.
‘What happens if the doctor gets sick? What happens if the captain gets sick?’
The cruise line did not confirm the report that the ship could dock in Cuba, telling CNN that all options were being considered.
Passengers appeared in high spirits when the cruise ship Braemar docked in Jamaica on March 4 – but the ship has now become the latest to be stranded over coronavirus fears
The cruise line says it is in ‘high-level discussions’ with the Foreign Office about how to get the passengers back to the UK.
Captain Jozo Glavic told guests yesterday that ‘our situation continues to be looked at as a matter of the utmost urgency between the UK government and our head office’.
A statement today said: ‘We can confirm that Braemar, currently at anchor in The Bahamas, has taken on supply of food, medication and ship supplies, after a delivery via cargo ship from Freeport overnight.
‘At the same time, two doctors and two nurses joined the ship to assist Braemar’s on board medical team.
‘The captain, senior officers and crew worked extremely hard overnight to take receipt of these supplies and store them accordingly.
‘As a result, the Captain enforced a mandatory rest period for all those involved in the operation, following what was a busy and challenging day on board.
‘At around 9am on Saturday morning, Braemar dropped anchor approximately 25 miles south-west of Freeport in The Bahamas, and the ship remains at this location.
‘Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to have high level discussions to get all guests home as quickly as possible.
‘We will provide a further update as soon as we have further information.’
A map showing the latest numbers of coronavirus cases around the world. The Diamond Princess cruise ship is marked in its own right off the coast of Japan
Bahamian authorities announced last Thursday that the ship would not be allowed to dock in the country.
‘This decision is based on consideration for the protection of health and safety of the Bahamian people and residents of the Bahamas’, the country’s finance ministry said.
‘The Bahamas Maritime Authority has been in constant communication with the owners of the Braemar, which is a Bahamas-flagged ship.’
Authorities in the Bahamas are ‘continuing to monitor the well-being of passengers and crew’, they say.
The five confirmed coronavirus patients tested positive last Tuesday at the port of Willemstad, on the Dutch island of Curacao.
Health authorities around the world have grown wary of cruise ships after a series of virus scares at sea.
In the most serious case, more than 700 people tested positive on board the Diamond Princess during a two-week quarantine imposed by Japanese authorities.
British nationals aged over 70 or suffering from underlying health conditions have been advised against travelling on cruise ships by the Foreign Office.
‘As has been seen in a number of high-profile cases, transmission of Covid-19 on board cruise ships is more likely due to the nature and design of a ship’s environment, the higher volume and density of people on board, and the social mixing,’ officials say.
Some operators including Princess Cruises have already shut down their ocean voyages temporarily over virus fears.
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