More than 300 passengers were stranded on a ferry overnight in Birkenhead after six crew members tested positive for Covid-19.
The Belfast-bound Stena Line ferry at the company’s terminal on the River Mersey was advised by port health authorities not to let passengers disembark or to leave Birkenhead after the six staff were found to have coronavirus.
The 322 passengers and 53 crew have been told by public health authorities to stay put, while Stena Line confirmed it was helping passengers find alternative travel.
Alan Cogan, a passenger on the ferry, told the BBC he was waiting for a replacement ferry to take him home to Northern Ireland, but said the delay meant he had to cancel a work video conference meeting.
The 47-year-old, an area manager for a heating company, said passengers had resigned themselves to being stuck and “were waiting to see what happens”.
He said: “We all had visions of what had happened to the cruise ships around the world when passengers had tested positive and were left stranded and not allowed off. That would be a nightmare. It’s not the most comfortable boat.”
A spokesperson for Stena Line said: “Stena Line can confirm that following full testing of the Stena Edda crew last night, six members tested positive for Covid-19. In line with our safety protocols we alerted the port health authorities, who advised us to hold the vessel in Birkenhead as a precaution.
“Three hundred and twenty-two passengers and 53 crew were onboard. The six crew members who tested positive for Covid-19 are being cared for and are doing well, with only mild symptoms.”
The company confirmed that of the six crew members who tested positive, none were in passenger-facing or onboard services roles. Port health authorities confirmed there was no risk to passengers, who had left the vessel.
According to Stena Line, disembarkation was completed at 11.45am. The positive crew members were being transferred to the Stena Mersey, which was due to set sail for Belfast on Wednesday afternoon.
Tests have been distributed to the rest of the crew members to check for coronavirus, according to Stena Line. It said the ship would be sanitised afterwards.
It added: “The welfare of our passengers and crew is paramount at this time. The passengers are being catered for and we will assist them with alternative travel arrangements.”