An elderly Maltese couple on board the cruiseliner Colombus launched a heartfelt appeal to Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci to reconsider her refusing them permission to disembark when the ship stops for refuelling outside Malta on Monday.

Joe Mercieca and his partner Marthese Bonello said on Facebook they were both vulnerable people in their 70s who also suffered from respiratory and cardiac conditions.

“If we have to continue to the port of Tilbury, we would be staying in a hotel for an indefinite period and would have to buy medicine for cronic illness, then travel to Heathrow to return to Malta. This would put us in serious risk of getting infected.”

They pointed out that the risk of getting infected was higher in London than in Malta, where the death rate from the virus was on the increase.

The couple said that they booked the “holiday of a lifetime” in September last year and they boarded the ship in Sydney, Australia, on February 25 after they sought and were given assurance by the cruise liner operators.

On March 14, the liner started the non-stop repatriation trip to Tilbury after it was ordered to do so because of the deepening COVID-19 crisis.

It is expected to stop for refuelling some 20 miles off Malta on Monday.

They said in their appeal that everyone was living an extraordinary situation and their case should be considered on the merit of age and health, as well as the risk of infection from a zone where the virus was spreading at an alarming rate.

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