Cruise passengers allege foul play behind paid quarantine in Mumbai

Names of travellers from Kerala on board M.V. Empress ‘falsely mentioned’ in list of COVID-19 patients

Several passengers, including senior citizens from Kerala, on board a cruise vessel that was on a Kochi-Goa trip had a harrowing time, reportedly following attempts to make them undergo paid quarantine at star hotels in Mumbai, as their names were “falsely mentioned” in a list of COVID patients.

The passengers on board M.V. Empress operated by Cordelia Cruises, who were thus stranded in Mumbai, attributed it to a possible “unholy nexus” between the hotels and government authorities. They had to disembark the vessel in Mumbai, after it was reportedly refused permission to berth at Goa, as over 60 passengers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during the cruise that began from here on December 29.

Among those who were mentioned as COVID patients were film director Roy Manappallil and his wife. They soon afterwards tested negative in Mumbai and were still sent to a hotel to undergo a 10-day paid quarantine.

“I ended up paying ₹5,500 at a star hotel, after spending just a few hours there. The entire episode also resulted in we flying back to Kochi on January 7, instead of January 2 as was scheduled. We along with others would have had to spend 10 days in paid quarantine at the hotel, but for our insistence on a second test,” Mr. Manappallil said.

They boarded the vessel on December 29 for the trip that was to end in Goa on January 2, following which they were to fly back to Kochi the same day. Having arrived in Mumbai on January 4, they were put up in hotels along with over 140 others whose names were mentioned in the list of COVID patients. “The very day we and many others tested negative following a retest which we insisted on. This proved that the first list was manipulated. Moreover, the health authorities were not following up on us, and that aroused our suspicion,” he added.

Lyla Lathif, whose sister’s name was on the quarantine list despite testing negative, wondered who would compensate for the trauma, separation, and anxiety it caused to the passengers.

A statement issued by Jurgen Bailom, CEO of Cordelia Cruises, said all crew members and guests had to undergo RT-PCR test 48 hours prior to boarding the vessel. The guests who boarded the vessel had all tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 at the time of boarding. They were also fully vaccinated. A crew member who showed mild symptoms on board close to departure was immediately isolated, and all guests and crew had to undergo the test again. The results showed that a few guests and a crew member on board were positive.

‘Lack of empathy’

The guests who tested positive were asymptomatic. They would have been infected prior to boarding. But it was disheartening to witness a lack of empathy on the part of the authorities (in Goa) for neither allowing local residents (to board) nor tourists to disembark, he said.

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