The British cruise ship MS Braemar, with five confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board and a group of people isolated for presenting suspicious symptoms, carried out its docking operation in the Cuban port of Mariel this Wednesday morning.
The operation began around 7:00 in the morning and the disembarking of the passengers is scheduled to begin around 1:00 in the afternoon, according to the official Cubadebate site. Hours later, they will be transferred to José Martí International Airport for their return to the United Kingdom.
A television report broadcast this morning from the Cuban port, located to the west of Havana, explained that this is a slow procedure, due to the strict measures established for the safety of cruise passengers, crew and Cuban personnel participating in the operation, and whose number has not been made official.
— Presidencia Cuba (@PresidenciaCuba) March 18, 2020
The Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) assured that this operation, organized jointly with the British authorities, is being carried out following established international protocols and that the island has “all the resources and means” for its successful execution.
The MS Braemar carries 682 passengers and 381 crew members. After being rejected by several countries in the area due to the presence of COVID-19 cases, the ship entered Cuban waters this Tuesday, after which the island’s authorities accepted to receive it, a gesture that the United Kingdom government has publicly thanked as well as several passengers on the ship through the social networks.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said that he had maintained contacts with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodríguez on the case and said that London was “very grateful” to Havana “for quickly allowing this operation, and for their close cooperation to ensure it is a success.”
🇨🇺🇬🇧 El crucero británico MS Braemar, con cinco casos confirmados del nuevo coronavirus y más de 1.000 personas a bordo, atraca en un puerto en el oeste de La Habana, desde donde sus pasajeros serán repatriados hacia el Reino Unido #AFP https://t.co/qSS8BkX4z4 pic.twitter.com/OBV6RcIdMc
— Agence France-Presse (@AFPespanol) March 18, 2020
After disembarking, passengers―mostly British, but also of other nationalities―will be transferred to the Havana airport―in a duly insured bus caravan―from where they will return to the United Kingdom on four direct charter flights. In the last of these flights, the infected are expected to travel, and their departure time is estimated at midnight, according to a note in the newspaper Granma.
The publication informs that the transfer to the airport of the cruise passengers will begin at around 6:00 in the afternoon, while the crew members will remain on the ship and leave the port of Mariel after the departure of the flights with the passengers.
The company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, responsible for the ship, confirmed on its Twitter account that the aircrafts in charge of the transfer are already in Cuba.
Braemar update: we can confirm that all four planes have landed in Cuba and Braemar is now alongside in the Port of Mariel.
— Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines (@FredOlsenCruise) March 18, 2020
According to a previous note from the British company, people who are unable to travel by plane will be treated in Cuba.
As for the Cuban personnel, Granma assures that “all the equipment in charge of the transportation of the passengers is protected and following the established security protocols.”
A tweet from a passenger on the ship, named Steve Dale, in which he thanks Cuba for receiving the MS Braemar, shows two of the people in charge of receiving the cruise passengers, with clothing and means of protection.
We've now docked in Cuba and will be disembarking for flights home later today. Lots of welcoming tweets from the locals, some of whom are here to greet us! #Braemar #Covid19 pic.twitter.com/THUbqaoKfi
— Steve Dale (@stephendale) March 18, 2020
Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, passengers who have not been confirmed with COVID-19 must stay in quarantine for 14 days, following the protocol in force.
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