A Sydney man said he fears for the wellbeing of his parents currently stranded off the coast of Chile amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Robert Quinn told Hatch his parents Margaret Sampson and Barry Quinn of Cherrybrook, NSW, set-off on the US-owned luxury cruise liner Azamara Pursuit, but soon found the voyage cancelled due to countries tightening their travel restrictions.
The ship, which has 72 other Australians onboard, has since been denied entry to numerous ports and remains in limbo at sea along with several other international cruise ships.
“I’m terrified, because I know that if my parents get it in the next few weeks, there’s a good chance they could actually die – due to the lack of medical facilities on board,” said Mr Quinn.
“There is one medical centre on the ship, with one doctor.”
He said both his parents were immuno-compromised, with Ms Sampson suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure, which causes her to take blood-thinning medication.
Professor Quinn is diabetic, and was diagnosed with a meningioma tumour in his brain last November.
Ms Sampson and Professor Quinn were told last Saturday night the cruise would end at the next scheduled port, which was Valparaiso, in Chile.
They booked flights home to Sydney for March 22 after being encouraged by the cruise line.
However, between the time of the booking and the flight, the Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, announced Chile would be closing its borders to foreigners from March 18, following the likes of Spain, Italy and France, meaning those with a flight beyond that date would not be able to enter the country to board it.
Although encouraged to leave the boat and fly anywhere else to certain safety, this was made impossible with major US carriers such as American Airlines, United and Delta slashing their services between the US and South America.
Mr Quinn said the government had offered very minimal help to those on board, and had only told his parents to call a helpline offering 24-hour consular assistance.
In a WhatsApp message to his son, Professor Quinn said: “We have had little help from the Azamara company, and the 24hr consular helpline was not helpful. The airlines appear to have no seats available. Azamara is helping to book flights for customers who have booked their flights through them, but this facility is not offered to Australians.”
The latest reported plan was for the ship to sail to Miami and attempt to enter there.
However, with many airlines drastically cutting their flights, it will be very difficult for the couple to get home if they do get to Miami.
“QANTAS cancelling all flights is an update that’s pretty dreadful,” said Mr Quinn.
“There’s no way for them to get back when they make it to Miami.”
“Ideally, we just need them to get to somewhere where they can be quarantined with access to effective medical care,” Mr Quinn said.
The ever-evolving situation has caused great anxiety for Mr Quinn and his siblings, who only have limited contact with their parents.
They were recently given food and medical supplies for their trip to Miami, which is expected to take a minimum of 16 days. – @ErinChristie2
Main picture by Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr.