Portuguese man frustrated with handling of COVID-19 outbreak aboard ships off N.L.

·3 min read
The Princess Santa Joana left Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, with all but one person on board reportedly recovering from COVID-19. (Emma Grunwald/CBC - image credit)
The Princess Santa Joana left Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, with all but one person on board reportedly recovering from COVID-19. (Emma Grunwald/CBC - image credit)
Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Two men who were crew members of Portuguese fishing vessels that anchored off the coast of Newfoundland amid COVID-19 outbreaks on board remain in intensive care in St. John's, and a Portuguese citizen with direct knowledge of the situation says he's frustrated and upset by how the ship's owners handled the situation.

The man, speaking with CBC News in agreement to protect his identity because he fears repercussions for speaking out, said there was a disregard for the crew members' lives on board the the Santa Cristina, which was anchored in Bay Bulls, and the Princess Santa Joana, which was anchored in Conception Bay until Wednesday.

"No value was given to them. A lot of things were missed, such as food, and more important, healthcare access," he said.

The man said crew members on board the Princess Santa Joana received rapid COVID-19 tests before leaving Portugal but weren't given the results. He said one crew member tested positive and was removed from the ship ahead of its voyage. He said a second ship, owned by the same company, also had a COVID-19 outbreak.

"It's simple evidence that something went wrong from the start. This is impossible, two ships from the same company getting COVID. It's really bad," he said.

Worsening conditions

The man said crew members were getting sicker every day, after the owner of the company dismissed their condition as just having the flu.

He said some days, there weren't enough healthy people to work.

"The fishing ceased because there was no people to work. Everyone was getting bad, day-by-day. The whole crew had to wait until another ship from the company could bring the tests to confirm it was COVID on board," he said.

"Since the time it was identified as the simple flu to the moment that they actually knew with the tests they had tested positive, this space of time was completely negligent. No one wanted to accept, because we're in a pandemic situation, that it was probably COVID."

Chelsea Jacobs/CBC
Chelsea Jacobs/CBC

Ten days went by since symptoms began among crew members before anyone received help, the man said. He said crew members had fevers and other COVID-19 symptoms.

The two men who remain in St. John's are in intensive care and on life support, the man said, and there hasn't been any progress, he added.

The man said family remembers in Portugal could make the trip to St. John's to visit the men in hospital, but will have to be fully vaccinated first and will still have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Both Portuguese vessels are now out of the province.

The man said regular fishing has restarted, and new crew members are being brought on board to replace the men who are in hospital in St. John's.

"The Portuguese citizens that are in intensive care units have been left in Canada," he said.

"In the name of the families, everyone is really thankful for all the support and help from Canada in a very delicate situation."

The man said the two men in hospital have to recover from COVID-19 before they're able to go home.

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