Seafarers on Remote Island Quarantined with COVID-19 and No Medicine
Far from the world’s attention in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, a health emergency is unfolding for seafarers in the Andaman Islands. According to reports from the UK charity Sailor’s Society, as many as 300 seafarers may be ill with COVID-19, quarantined, and stranded without medical supplies.
The danger of COVID-19 has been especially acute for the remote islands that are a union territory of India. The concern was especially high for the indigenous tribes.
According to the charity, the suspected coronavirus outbreak spread among some 20 ships that have now been quarantined off the main city of Port Blair. As many as 300 seafarers are believed to be ill and stranded aboard the ships without basic medical supplies. Another 150 seafarers are also quarantined on the ships in fear of spreading the virus among the local communities.
The seafarers, most of whom are Indians or residents of the Andaman Islands, work on the domestic ships. Around 70 percent are reported to have shown symptoms of the virus. The charity believes they have been held aboard their ships for up to three weeks without even basic medical supplies such as cough syrup.
“To have an outbreak of this virus on board ships, where everyone is in a confined space, is frightening enough,” said Sailors’ Society’s CEO Sara Baade. “When they have no medical supplies, and no possibility of getting ashore for medical help, it must be nothing short of terrifying.”
Sailors’ Society reports it got involved after a local captain informed it of the crews’ plight. The charity working with one of its partners, the Voluntary Health Services Hospital in Chennai, India, is delivering more than $600 worth of medication to the seafarers this week.
“The men weren’t allowed on shore because the authorities didn’t want the infection to spread, especially as there is very little medical capacity,” said Baade. News reports suggest that there have been nearly 3,700 reported cases of COVID-19 on the islands with at least 160 active currently. More than 50 people are believed to have died on the islands from the virus.
Sailors’ Society says that it has been trying to get an update on the seafarers' condition, but due to the remote nature of the ships and the number of ill seafarers, it has not been possible for them to speak to anyone on board. The charity hopes to get an update when local volunteers deliver the medicine.