A cruise ship carrying at least 600 Brits remains stranded off the coast of the Bahamas as the number of people on board showing flu-like symptoms increases.
There are now 20 guests and 20 crew members, including a doctor, in isolation with five confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Braemar.
The ship – run by British firm Fred Olsen Cruise Lines – has been denied permission to dock and allow passengers to disembark at Freeport in the Bahamas. It has anchored at an island to allow a restock of food, fuel and medication for those on board.
It is understood the firm is now considering travelling across the Atlantic to Southampton, which could take up to 10 days.
A letter from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office was delivered to the more than 600 British nationals on board, saying they are urgently working with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and the authorities in the region on arrangements for the ship and how best to get them home safe.
People on board have been struggling to contact relatives due to limited wi-fi. Sky News has managed to contact a number of people on board.
Steve Dale, 68, from Essex is concerned about catching coronavirus, as he suffered from Legionnaires disease some years ago.
He told Sky News: “There is some concern about not knowing what is going to happen to us, and not knowing when or how we are going to get home. It’s frustrating that we can’t rely on the internet.”
Angela Phipps and her husband Peter are on the cruise to celebrate Peter’s 81st birthday. They boarded in St Maartens, saying there’s a lot of confusion.
She said: “We set off for Barbados under the impression that we would be getting a flight home from there.
“We then heard that results were positive and Barbados were not willing to offer us any aid. We then had three days of sailing to get to the Bahamas as they had offered us support. Most people thought this meant a flight home.
“The captain told us that the Bahamas could offer fuel, medical supplies and food, and that we might sail to Southampton: at least another week’s sailing on a contaminated ship.”
Aimee Ramm’s parents Jude and John are on board, and her mother has come down with flu-like symptoms. She says she hasn’t been tested for COVID-19 as there are not enough test kits on board, but says her mum has been kept in isolation, and had meals delivered by staff wearing masks and suits.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said in their latest statement: “We know this must be a very worrying time for our guests on board and their families, so have set up a Relative Support Team in our office in Ipswich.
“This team are there to answer questions from our guests and their family members, they can also help you get messages to those on board. Please call them on +44 (0)1473 292 350 (open 8am to 8pm).
“Fred Olsen would like to re-iterate that we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation with the global outbreak COVID-19 coronavirus and we are working around the clock to ensure the safety and comfort of our passengers.”
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