[WATCH] Maltese elderly couple on aborted cruise brought ashore

Two 70-year-olds, Marthese Bonello and Joseph Mercieca, have been brought ashore after the cruise ship they were on aborted its voyage

Joseph Mercieca and Marthese Bonello on the deck of the pilot launch inside Grand Harbour after being picked up from the cruise liner (inset, bottom right). Marthese is seen waving to relatives upon reaching the shore. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Joseph Mercieca and Marthese Bonello on the deck of the pilot launch inside Grand Harbour after being picked up from the cruise liner (inset, bottom right). Marthese is seen waving to relatives upon reaching the shore. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

A Maltese elderly couple have disembarked in Malta after being picked up from a cruise ship as it stopped to refuel outside territorial waters earlier today.

The couple, Marthese Bonello and Joseph Mercieca, were on board the cruise ship Columbus, which they boarded on 25 February in Sydney, Australia.

Marthese Bonello and Joseph Mercieca back in Malta (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Marthese Bonello and Joseph Mercieca back in Malta (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

However, the operator cancelled the cruise on 14 March, ordering the ship to return on a non-stop voyage back to its home port in the UK.

The couple had asked the Maltese authorities for permission to disembark when the ship stopped off Malta to take on fuel.

Initially, the request was turned down. However, after appealing for reconsideration on the grounds that both would run significant risk if taken to the UK to pick up a repatriation flight back home, a decision was taken to allow the couple to disembark on humanitarian grounds.

The elderly couple disembarked onto the pilot boat after being granted permission on humanitarian grounds
The elderly couple disembarked onto the pilot boat after being granted permission on humanitarian grounds

Both suffer from cardiac and respiratory problems, which would make them more vulnerable if they catch the coronavirus. Bonello and Mercieca do not have Covid-19.

Transport Malta officials who carried out the operation did so fully-kitted in protective clothing. The couple disembarked onto a pilot boat and were transported to Grand Harbour.

They will remain in quarantine at their house, as per procedure for anyone who returns to Malta from abroad.

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