Son of elderly British couple protests at government’s ‘double standards’ for rescue of quarantined cruise passengers.19 March 2020
By Paul Martin
The British government was today accused of double standards in failing so far to rescue 108 British passengers cooped up in their cabins on the Silver Shadow cruise ship in Brazil.
Relatives of the trapped British passengers were angry that their loved ones languished on board a ship yet at the same time Britain had successfully sent three planes to pick up hundreds of British passengers from another cruise liner, the Braemar, soon after it anchored in Cuba.
“If we can act so swiftly in one case, why, for another ship, are government officials sitting there like dummies? It’s putting passengers like my parents at risk on another vessel,” said Malcolm Cohen.
His father Alan, 89, and mother Gwen, 86, who live in north London, have told correspondent.world that they and another 106 other Britons on board the Silver Shadow, docked in Recife, Brazil, have been confined to their cabins for over a week.
Malcolm Cohen demanded an immediate evacuation from the ship last week, and Theresa Villiers, the elderly couple’s MP, raised the matter with the Foreign Secretary in Parliament on Wednesday.
Both ships had introduced emergency measures afer they identified passengers with corona virus on board.
Governments have been wrangling over exactly how those on board should be brought off the ship and taken home.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which operates the Braemar, confirmed four aircraft had landed in Cuba ready for the rescue operation. The first flight was set to depart at 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday. [PLEASE UPDATE ]
The successful evacuation of that ship came after a frantic few days in which the Braemar had searched for a place to dock, following refusals from several ports in the Caribbean.
Five people aboard that cruise ship had tested positive for the virus, according to a statement from the owners. As it entered port, 28 passengers and 27 crew members, including a doctor, were in isolation.
In contrast, the Silver Shadow was already anchored in Brazil’s Recipe port when a 78-year-old Canadian man was diagnosed with corona virus symptoms and taken to hospital on March 12. Since then, no new cases of corona virus have been announced.
“I’ve told the Foreign Office today that it’s a disgrace to put elderly passengers at risk,” fumed Malcolm Cohen, who like his parents is a former magistrate. “They have had more than enough time to solve any issues.
“They will be responsible if my elderly parents develop serious complications from this unnecessarily long period on board the ship.”
So far, though, the couple appear to be unscathed. On a shaky phone-call, the pair told correspondent.world: “We are well but bored – and frustrated.”
They had joined the cruise in Rio de Janiero on March 17 and were due to visit other Latin American ports, then traverse the Carribean, ending their dream cruise in Florida on the 27th.
“All we think about now is getting home safely,” said Alan Cohen, a former magistrate and local councillor for Barnet and Finchley.
The pair celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary this week inside their cabin, marking the occasion by clinking two cups of tea.
Relatives of the 108 British passengers marooned on the Silver Shadow in Brazil have formed a WhatsApp group to share information.
Cohen said he was also distressed that his parents had received no email from Foreign Office officials.
“The British ambassador has been sending out tweets, but he should know that elderly passengers like my mum and dad have no idea how to get Twitter feeds,” he noted.