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Northern Ireland couple still stranded on ship as coronavirus cases confirmed after cruise nightmare

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Stranded: Limavady couple Heather and David Lynch

Stranded: Limavady couple Heather and David Lynch

Stranded: Limavady couple Heather and David Lynch

Passengers - including some from Northern Ireland - on a cruise ship stranded at sea for weeks have been told by the captain that some on board tested positive for Covid-19.

The Coral Princess, blocked from docking in several South American ports, is now on its way to Fort Lauderdale, where the approximately 400 UK citizens, including at least eight from Northern Ireland, are hoping to be flown home from the United States.

Officials in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, are reported to have reached a deal to allow two other cruise ships to dock near the city. Both are owned by the Carnival Corporation, which also operates the Coral Princess.

Several people have tested positive on one of the ships, the Zaandam, and four have died, although it was confirmed in only two cases that they had the virus. The Coral Princess is due to arrive in Florida tomorrow.

Heather Lynch, from Limavady, who has been on board the ship with her husband David for nearly a month, said passengers have been confined to their cabins since Tuesday afternoon.

Princess Cruises said 19 onboard had been tested with 12 - seven guests and five crew - had tested positive.

"The captain announced... that tests for Covid-19 on board had come back positive," Heather said in a message from on board the ship.

"They gave no indication as to how many people had been tested! He did say that an ill passenger (and his/her spouse) had been taken off the ship at Barbados on Tuesday evening when we stopped for supplies."

She added: "Masks were left in the rack outside our cabin late last night. We are to wear them when out on our balcony and when bringing in our tray of food and leaving it outside our door again."

Heather and David's daughter, Emma, said she was in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and that a chartered flight is being organised for the UK passengers.

"They confirmed that the ship is expected to arrive in Fort Lauderdale on 4th April. The ship is expected to stay in Fort Lauderdale for two days," Emma said.

"A chartered flight for UK passengers is being organised for between 4th and 6th April by the Foreign Office with British Airways and/or Virgin for anyone not showing symptoms.

"Anyone with symptoms will probably be quarantined and I don't know if they'll get home if they get better."

The family's MP, Gregory Campbell, said his office has been in contact with the Foreign Office over the last number of weeks.

"Hopefully your parents along with the 300/400 UK passengers and indeed all passengers from whatever nationality will find safe return to their countries," the MP said in a message to Emma.

It was announced on March 30 by Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb that the Government has struck a deal with airlines to fly home British travellers.

"The Government will provide up to £75m financial support to enable special charter flights to priority countries, operated by airlines including Virgin, Easyjet, Jet 2 and Titan," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

In a statement, Princes Cruises said: "In response to a reported small cluster of cases of respiratory illness and in an abundance of caution, Coral Princess proactively collected and sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to Barbados on March 31. We can confirm the results yielded 12 positive cases (7 guests and 5 crew)."

Belfast Telegraph