A Pietermaritzburg couple who were confined to their cabin on a luxury cruiseliner in Italy since 6 March have returned home after finally managing to secure a flight over the weekend.
The couple arrived in Durban late on Tuesday evening after leaving Rome over the weekend to Doha and then to Johannesburg. Although none of the passengers on board the cruise ship tested positive for Covid-19, the couple will be in isolation at their home upon their return.
More than 172 South Africans were on board the ship. It is not known how many have since returned.
The elderly couple flew to Argentina on 29 February where they boarded the Costa Pacifica cruise ship and left Buenos Aires on March 3 for a transatlantic cruise.
“We headed for Barcelona, Spain, and everything went well. We went up the coast of Brazil and then left the northern city of Manaus. We were two days into the Atlantic Ocean when it was announced that European ports had turned down our permission to dock,” the man said.
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“So from March 6, we have been at sea from port to port seeing who would take us and allow us to disembark. After that we were told we would head for Barcelona, but then when we arrived they wouldn’t have us.
“Then arrangements were made for us to dock at Marseille in France. As our luck would have it, we were one of six cruiseliners docked there and there was a huge protest against all the cruiseliners there, so we had to leave,” he said.
He said eventually they were told they were being taken to Genoa, Italy, the world’s Covid-19 hotspot.
“We had no choice. We were being taken there against our will. Eventually after spending a few days there, we were taken to Rome, where they managed to get us flights out of Rome indirectly to South Africa,” said the man.
Relieved that he was en route home, News24’s sister publication The Witness spoke to him at the Johannesburg airport, he said it was a stressful experience.
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“We just didn’t know what was going to happen to us and where we would be left. We were desperately trying to get flights to South Africa but all flights from Italy were banned.
“We were fortunate to get a flight out of Italy to Doha — they had not introduced a travel ban there yet — and then to South Africa. I’m just grateful we are back. We were screened at the airport and are well. But we will be isolating at home nonetheless,” said the man.
The man’s daughter said they were grateful to the assistance from the Department of International Relations and Co-Operation (Dirco) and Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers.