UK thanks Cuba for “great gesture of solidarity” in rescuing cruise ship passengers from coronavirus

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The British government thanked Cuban rescuers for a “great gesture of solidarity” in helping stranded passengers on a cruise ship hit by a coronavirus.

In a complimentary letter, the British ambassador to the country said he wanted to express his “immense gratitude and that of my country” for the role of the Cubans in the operation.

Cuba has authorized the British cruise ship MS Braemar to dock in Havana and allow its 600 mainly British passengers to return home, after other countries such as the Bahamas and Barbados refused authorization because of Covid-19 infections on board.

But 43 Cuban workers, including a pilot, dockers, police and transport personnel, all had to be quarantined for two weeks due to their close contact with the passengers. All have now been released and have been reunited with their families.

“During Operation Braemar, I witnessed the many qualities of the Cuban people, their humanitarian principles, their kindness and their fierce attitude; facets of the Cuban character that I have come to know and love since arriving in the country, “said British Ambassador Antony. Stokes said in the April 2 letter that the workers were quarantined.

“I assure those who return home today that their great gesture of solidarity will last in the memory of the passengers and crew of the Braemar, their families and friends, who are now united through their efforts. “

The episode is a rare bright spot in relations between the United Kingdom and Cuba, a one-party state with a poor record on human rights. The country has, however, won international praise for its conduct during the Covid-19 pandemic, sending more than 800 doctors overseas to work in virus hotspots as part of its long-standing policy of medical internationalism.

Cuba is still subject to a cold war embargo from the United States, its largest neighbor, which restricts exports, including medical supplies.

A spokesperson for cruise ship Fred Olsen said at the time, “No other Caribbean port is willing to accept the ship because of local susceptibility to the COVID-19 coronavirus.”

In the House of Commons at the time of the rescue, Dominic Raab, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that he had called the Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs to say that the United Kingdom was “very grateful to the Cuban government for having quickly allowed this operation and their close cooperation to ensure that it could be successful. “

In a statement, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “These are moments of solidarity, of understanding health as a human right, of strengthening international cooperation to face our common challenges, inherent values to the humanist practice of the Revolution and of our people. “

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