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Stay on ship or get off in Italy: 300 Aussies’ choice

Around 3,000 Australians are stuck onboard cruise ships across the globe as countries remain closed due to coronavirus.

But arguably the worst situation is occurring on the Costa Victoria, where more than 300 Australians have the unenviable choice between staying onboard a vessel potentially struck with COVID-19 and alighting in the epicentre of the virus. 


The Costa Fortuna in northern Italy


Many of the Aussies on the Victoria are also senior travellers in the highest risk category for coronavirus, The Guardian reported. 


Since a passenger who tested positive for the virus disembarked in Crete, the Costa ship sailed for 14 days before docking in Civitavecchia, just 60 kilometres north-west of Rome on Wednesday. 


“We have to stay in the cabin, they knock on the door and leave food and they step back. The staff has gone from lovely to now, if you ask nicely for milk for your coffee in the morning, they yell at you and say ‘no!’, said Australians Brenda and Dave Rondo. 


“We have heard different things, but not from the Captain, that we may go to Rottnest Island in Western Australia for quarantine, but ... the last we heard we will have to stay in Rome in a motel for two weeks.”


While European passengers have been allowed to travel home to self-isolate, Australians, South Africans and other travellers from distant countries will remain in Italy to isolate for two weeks. 


According to The Guardian, some passengers have said the hotel rooms in which they have been isolated are worse than the ship.


“It’s smaller than our cabins, no hanging space and barely room to walk around,” said Ivan Maronian.


But others are more concerned about those who may come down with the virus.


“It’s completely terrifying because if he got coronavirus on there I’m really not sure what kind of medical care he would be getting, given the situation,” said Australian Laura Bendlin, whose father was a passenger on the ship. “Worst-case scenario, he dies.” 


Elsewhere, around 100 Australians remain on board Holland America’s Zaandam off the west coast of South America, where up to 140 passengers have been reportedly feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms. 


The plan for the Zaandam is to sail to Florida, where passengers will disembark by the end of March.  


The Australian Government says it is working hard to help repatriate Australians. But as airlines continue to shut down routes, time is running out. 


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Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 27 March 2020

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