If negotiations fail, the Braemar will be forced to return to Britain with all of its passengers – including those with Covid-19 – on board.
Relatives of those aboard the ship yesterday expressed concern over the prospect.
“You have the absolute most vulnerable and at risk target audience on this ship,” said Helen Littlewood, 39, of Norfolk, whose 74-year-old mother is on board. “My mom has high blood pressure, breathing problems, she has bronchitis and is asthmatic. She is one of hundreds.
“I’m absolutely terrified that they might have to cross the Atlantic. No one has told us medically how they would fare if more people got sick. What happens if the doctor gets sick? What happens if the captain gets sick?
Speaking aboard the ship, Steve Dale, 68, of Stansted, Essex, who is with his wife Lynda, 62, said: “We are concerned about what is going on and when we will be returning to the House. It is becoming more and more difficult to stay in contact with families because for some reason, they have limited wi-fi. The captain said yesterday: “If necessary, I will sail to Southampton”. Most people show the typical British stiff upper lip.
Keith Livingstone, 55, of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, whose wife Suzanne, 52, is an art teacher on board, said, “Everyone wants someone to make a decision about what past. While a small number of passengers isolate themselves – including the five confirmed cases – most passengers are still allowed to leave their cabins and mingle in the ship’s restaurants and bars. A worried parent tweeted: “My stepfather, 85, with a lung, is in Braemar with his wife. He will run out of medicine. They are not at all computer savvy, so contact is limited to calls to his wife’s daughter.
Other family members expressed disbelief that the passengers had been allowed to board the ship on March 2 on the Dutch island of St Maarten despite possible signs that an epidemic might have started on board during his previous cruise. Passengers appear happy as MS Braemar lands in Jamaica on March 4, 2020, before five people on board tested positive for the virus. The affected vessel, carrying 682 mostly British passengers and 381 crew members, was not allowed to dock in Freetown in the Bahamas due to the epidemic. The Braemar was scheduled to embark on a 14-day eastern Caribbean cruise on February 27 in the Dominican Republic, but harbor officials denied entry after the master reported that eight people on board were suffering from flu-like symptoms. The ship was also denied entry to Antigua, but was finally cleared to dock on the Dutch island of St Maarten. Hundreds of passengers disembarked and were allowed to return home without being tested for coronavirus. At least two passengers who left the ship were subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
Harry cole: On Friday evening, Chancellor Rishi Sunak held a crisis meeting with insurance industry leaders, fearing a multi-billion dollar bill from the British forced to cancel their Easter getaways. Treasury insists no family should be taken out of pocket after travel chaos caused by coronavirus, but insurers plan to label event as ‘natural disaster’ to avoid paying . Industry insiders last night warned that “an important line is brewing and the bill could extend to billions of dollars if a blanket travel ban were to be brought down.” It is understood that insurers are pressuring the government not to change travel advice, which often leads to automatic policy reimbursements and seeks assurances that the Treasury will intervene to save distressed businesses. A Whitehall source retorted: “If the insurance industry wants to moan, so be it, but we will always put people’s safety before profits.” A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers said: “The situation is changing rapidly and we are in constant dialogue with the government. Individual insurers will consider any claims they receive. Last night, a Treasury spokesperson added, “We are talking to industry leaders and want to make sure families do not lose. “The Covid-19 package announced in the budget was one of the most comprehensive economic responses in the world … We will not hesitate to take more measures to protect people if necessary.” Last night, Fred Olsen said that none of the previous passengers had tested positive for Covid-19 when the current trip started and that he had checked the medical and travel history of everyone who was traveling. However, rumors quickly began to swirl that people fell ill after the ship’s departure. During an unexpected stopover in Jamaica on March 4, passengers disembarked only to find that all the tours had been canceled and were only allowed ashore for one hour. Last Sunday, the liner docked in Cartagena, Colombia, and an 85-year-old British woman was abducted to complain of diarrhea and vomiting. Officials later confirmed that it had tested positive for Covid-19. When the ship docked in Willemstad, Curaçao, on Tuesday, six people were said to have been isolated after showing symptoms of the virus and passengers were said to have been disembarked. Those who were sick were tested and five were diagnosed with Covid-19. The last stop was to be in Barbados on Thursday, but due to positive tests, authorities have ordered the ship to stay away, as have other Caribbean ports. In desperation, the ship sailed for the Bahamas – under whose flag it sails – but was again refused permission to moor. Passengers were asked to list their medication on Friday so that additional supplies could be delivered to the ship. They were also offered a free all-inclusive beverage package to keep their spirits up. It was not enough, however, to appease concerned relatives. “Basically, they should never have been allowed to go on board,” said marketing manager Littlewood. “That’s why I’m so mad. It could have been completely avoided, but they put their profits before people’s lives. Last night Peter Deer, managing director of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “When we made the decision to take people to St Maarten on March 2, we acted on the best advice available. No one who joined the vessel reported the disease, and no passenger had traveled to a high-risk area or been exposed to someone with the Covid-19 coronavirus. “Anyone who stayed on the ship had been in the Caribbean for at least 14 days and there have been no known cases of the virus in the area. “No one who brought our charter flights home was quarantined, nor were they asked to be quarantined when they returned to the UK.” He added: “The safety and comfort of our customers and our crew are our top priority and we are working tirelessly to get passengers on board Braemar at home as quickly as possible.” The Foreign Office said, “We are working intensively with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and the authorities in the region to make urgent arrangements to safely bring the British nationals home. The ship is refueled in the Bahamas.“We are making sure medical supplies are available – including funding helicopter replenishment.”