Cuba allows cruise ship to dock amid coronavirus crisis

'An urgent test of humanity': CEO urges Florida to take in cruise ships with four dead as governor attacked for coronavirus response

'To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values'

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 31 March 2020 19:35

The CEO of a cruise liner with two ships facing deadly coronavirus outbreaks off Florida’s coast has issued a desperate plea to the state for entry, as Governor Ron DeSantis continues opposing local government assistance.

In an Op-Ed published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Holland America president Orlando Ashford warned that four passengers had already died after the outbreak occurred on the South American cruise, adding: “I fear other lives are at risk.”’

"The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our common humanity,” the CEO wrote. “To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human values."

His plea was published as Florida officials reportedly met with the White House and US Coast Guard to discuss potentially diverting the vessels from Florida coastline.

The state has not yet officially determined whether it would allow the vessels to carry off the dead and provide assistance to passengers infected with the novel virus, with reports indicating officials could make a decision as early as Tuesday.


Mr DeSantis, a Republican, has strongly opposed the ships entering his state, telling Fox News local medical services were already inundated by an influx of Covid-19 patients.

"We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources," he said, adding: "We view this as a big big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in Southern Florida right now."

Meanwhile, passengers who were on the ship impacted by the coronavirus outbreak implored the governor to allow its entry into the state.

Laura Gabarone, who was on the ship with her husband before officials later determined the couple were healthy enough to be transferred to the second vessel, along with a group of other passengers, reportedly wrote a letter to Mr DeSantis criticising the state’s response to droves of spring breakers partying on the beaches in recent weeks.

"Florida continues to receive flights from New York, and it allowed spring break gatherings to go on as planned,” she wrote, according to Reuters. “Why turn their backs on us?"

Numerous cruise ships have faced major outbreaks of the coronavirus since the pandemic began earlier this year, as passengers in multiple vessels have been forced to quarantine in their cabins for weeks on end as companies sought entry to multiple countries. The US has routinely been opposed to such entries, including Donald Trump, who initially spoke out against another coronavirus-infected vessel docking in California.

On Tuesday, the nation’s death toll surpassed that of China, where the outbreak was believed to have originally begun.

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