The Ministry of national Security says the government is in communication with the French authorities to get accurate information on the status of some 75 TT nationals stranded on the Costa Favolosa cruise ship off the coast of Guadeloupe.
In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry said the latest information received is that arrangements are being made to have them repatriated to Trinidad.
“Government agencies, in particular the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Security, are prepared to receive the Trinidad and Tobago nationals, and have been since yesterday (March 16) when they were expected to have arrived back in the country.
The ship was denied entry into Guadeloupe’s port because of concerns over the coronavirus and the was made to anchor in Fort De France, where it has remained since last Saturday.
Newsday understands there were two positive coronavirus cases on the ship and they were taken off since Friday last.
The TT nationals are expected to disembark from the cruise ship at midday on Wednesday, but they do not know whether they will be transported back to TT, and by whom.
Relatives of the stranded locals once again reached out to Newsday after attempts to contact officials at the Foreign Affairs and National Security ministries proved futile.
Newsday was told that a promise was made to the passengers that they would be transported back to TT, but they were not given any information as to when.
Relatives explained that officials on the ship made arrangements for the passengers to be chartered to TT via Air Caribes, the regional airline of the French Caribbean, but pilots raised concerns about having to be quarantined in TT for 14 days.
Relatives were told by the passengers that the majority of people from other countries have disembarked and have returned to their respective homes. Only the TT citizens and a few others from other countries remain.
“It is disheartening to see other people leave, and you can’t,” said a relative. “We are being told that some people are getting depressed and demotivated. Some are running out of medication. Our group are the only people stuck with no answers.”
Relatives said they were only able to communicate with their loved ones via WhatsApp. They were not able to send pictures or video call, and were only able to communicate via text.
They explained, the majority of the 75 are retirees who were part of the Mid-Streamers Club – a group for people over the age of 60 affiliated with the Works Credit Union.
The group went on an eight-day cruise from March 6 - 14 on the Italian ship.
Relatives clarified that they picked up the cruise in Martinique and were supposed to tour the Caribbean, dock in Martinique on Friday 13, and spend the last day on land before being chartered to TT with Air Caribes.
At that time there was only one case of the coronavirus in the Caribbean so the group thought it would be safe. They even took the precaution of cancelling another trip to the United Kingdom in April, because of concerns over the disease.
But when the ship tried to dock in Martinique, they were denied entry. The Martiniquan passengers were allowed to leave the ship and it was directed to Guadeloupe shores. They arrived in Guadeloupe on Saturday and were told they would be allowed to disembark on Sunday, but they were’t.
To add to this the situation on the Guadeloupean mainland continues to worsen, as positive cases on the island have climbed to 18, as compared to five on Sunday, according to St Lucia News Online.