Coronavirus Falklands: Islanders repatriate cruise ships passengers – but take no chances

The British overseas territory has a population of 3,480, according to the most recent figures – and with no confirmed cases of COVID-19, Dr Andrea Clausen, the Islands’ Director of Natural Resources, said every precaution was being to ensure nobody showing symptoms of the illness was permitted to disembark. Dr Clausen, a marine biologist by profession, is in charge of the marine operations on the Islands. She told Express.co.uk a total of seven vessels were being repatriated, totalling something in the region of a thousand passengers flying to countries all over the world including the UK, via the Falklands’ Mount Pleasant airport.

She added: “There are plenty of Brits – a plane flew back to Gatwick today.

“It’s a big operation but fortunately we are quite good with logistics on the Falklands because we have to deal with people moving around quite a lot, on cruise ships and other vessels.”

While there were no confirmed cases among the islanders, several people had displayed symptoms and were being kept in isolation, with the community understandably taking no chances, she explained.

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The Falklands has one 26-bed hospital and a total of seven ventilators she added, emphasising the importance of preventing a widespread outbreak.

Dr Clausen added: “We are being very careful because we are a very small community here.

“We would therefore be very vulnerable if COVID-19 were to take hold.”‘

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In addition, the remoteness of the archipelago in the South Atlantic would make it difficult for Britain to provide rapid assistance if the worst did happen, she added.

An official statement issued today said: “The Falkland Islands Government is assisting a number of cruise vessels seeking to repatriate their passengers to other countries through air charter flights.

“Working with our partners at British Forces South Atlantic Islands, a policy has been put in place that allows this humanitarian operation, while still protecting our population from COVID-19.

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“Cruise vessels will only be permitted to call into the Falkland Islands if all those on board have been on board for a minimum of 10 days, and no-one on board is suffering from symptoms consistent with them being a ‘suspect case’ for COVID-19.”

The statement added: “Cruise vessels will be permitted to disembark passengers only for the purposes of allowing those passengers to return home by charter flight in accordance with arrangements agreed between the Operator and the Falkland Islands Government.

“Passengers will be taken directly from the disembarkation point in Stanley to the charter flight.

“Two vessels have so far been assisted successfully and there are plans for a further five vessels to disembark providing the criteria above can be met.”

“There will be no further cruise ships arriving in the Falklands for either tourism or repatriation following the departure of the five remaining vessels.”

The Falklands are a British-governed group of islands located 300 wiles from the tip of Patagonia in the far south of Argentina.

It is one of a total of 14 British overseas territories scattered around the globe – Akrotiri and Dhekelia; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Island; and Turks and Caicos Islands.

Earlier this year, Tory MP John Penrose suggested all – including the Falklands – needed to be given the choice of officially becoming part of the United Kingdom and electing their own MPs.

He told Express.co.uk: “It creates an opportunity for them to access the UK’s internal market, that’s potentially, I would hope, useful and valuable in a post-Brexit world, both for the UK, but also for the individual overseas territories.

“It also means that if something does happen along the way in the future – a hurricane that devastates somewhere, wherever that might be – they’ve got a voice here so they can stand up and make their case and it is just that much faster and more direct.”

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