(St. Lucia News Online) — Over 500 Saint Lucians are “stuck abroad” after the cruise industry worldwide was shut down due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee has revealed.
This news comes after eight Saint Lucians from the Norwegian Spirit cruise ship arrived in Saint Lucia on Tuesday, April 21.
The ship was docked off the coast of Barbados since April 9, 2020.
The governments of Barbados and Saint Lucia teamed up “to see the successful repatriation” of the Saint Lucians, according to a news release.
However, there are many more Saint Lucians eager to get home. One male individual said in a letter to St. Lucia News Online that he is 104 Saint Lucian seafarers stuck on a cruise ship. He did not reveal the name of the vessel.
Fedee said the Saint Lucia government is aware of the situation.
“Our report today suggests that they are over 500 of our nationals who are stuck abroad with the cruise industry being shut down,” he said. “The difficulties we have been experiencing are that, as we try to repatriate them, the Center for Disease Control has said that cruise lines cannot allow anyone to get off the various ships because of the tremendous concern that they have had with coronavirus.”
However, Fedee said the government is committed to getting the remaining nationals home.
“I want all families to know that we’re doing everything at a diplomatic level, at a level of discussing with the airlines, discussions with the Florida Cruise and Caribbean Association… it’s the representative body, to bring our nationals home,” he said.
The eight Saint Lucians were placed into a 14-day quarantine in a Rodney Bay facility shortly after arriving at the George FL Charles Airport after 11 a.m., Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and Wellness, Sharon Belmar-George, said.
“They were received by our team and this was coordinated through the cruise line, through the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of External Affairs,” Dr. Belmar-George explained. “They were received as per our protocols, they were screened, and they were taken to the Rodney Bay Public Health Facility where they’ll be quarantined for a period of 14 days.”
External Affairs Minister Sarah Flood-Beaubrun echoed similar sentiments, saying it is a “matter of high priority” to get Saint Lucians home.
“It is a matter of high priority is to see how we can continue to collaborate to bring more of our people home. We assure you our government is working and as soon as it is practically possible and safe to do so we will ensure that all our Saint Lucians are brought home safely,” Minister Flood-Beaubrun. said.