A former navy veteran who went on a week-long cruise on a ship where a number of passengers were hit by Covid died with the virus days after leaving the vessel.
Wilf Broyden lost his battle with coronavirus last Sunday, and his family believe he could have caught the illness while on the seven-day cruise around the British Isles on MSC Virtuosa.
Today a spokesperson for cruise line MSC told the ECHO they were “devastated” to learn of Mr Broyden’s death and said all members of his party had tested negative, in line with their protocols, upon boarding the ship.
The 81-year-old went on holiday with his wife Carol, 74, her son Gary Shelley, Gary’s eight-year-old son, his girlfriend Sue and her two daughters, aged nine and 11.
While aboard the £800m MSC Virtuosa – one of the world’s largest cruise ships – signs started to emerge that Covid had broken out on board with their children asked to go for tests, staff suddenly wearing hazmat suits, and some isolated incidents of people seen coughing and apparently struggling to breathe around the lift areas.
About five days into the cruise, Mr and Mrs Broyden began to feel unwell, and so spent the final portion of the trip confined to their cabin, although staff were not informed and therefore no tests were carried out.
Mr Broyden, who suffered with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma and was classed as “high risk”, had been given the all-clear by his GP to go on the cruise after his blood levels were checked and found to be good.
But by the end of the trip he was feeling very weak, and his family said he had requested a wheelchair from Virtuosa crew as his mobility was badly affected.
He left the ship in Liverpool on August 24 and was immediately transferred to Arrowe Park Hospital, where he tested positive for Covid.
Mr Broyden, from Wallasey, was given pure oxygen and his condition improved briefly before suddenly plummeting and he tragically died four days ago.
His wife was unable to go and visit him during his final hours as she also tested positive for Covid not long after leaving the Virtuosa, along with her eight-year-old grandson.
Mr Shelley said he also displayed symptoms, and felt very unwell, but his tests were negative.
Mr Broyden’s last words to his wife were on the phone, from the ward, when he heartbreakingly told her: “Carol, I’m dying.
“Covid has got a hold of me. I love you.”
The Canadian received a Member Order of Military Merit during his time in their navy, but lived in Wallasey with his wife.
Mr Shelley, 44, from Litherland, and his mum Carol are critical of some of the procedures on board the cruise ship.
The family also said they were unaware the symptoms experienced by Mr and Mrs Broyden were Covid-related at the time.
Mr Shelley, a dad-of-three, told the ECHO: “It was our first cruise and we thought it might be a good time to get away.
“Wilf had been given the all-clear by his doctor to go.
“When we got to Southampton, it seemed like another 2,000 people boarded and the ship was suddenly chocker.
“There were queues for the lifts and people generally weren’t wearing masks.
“I was, along with Sue and Wilf, but many weren’t.
“We’ve all been double jabbed with the vaccine.
“We believed the ship was a safe environment.”
Earlier this week, the ECHO reported how a Covid-19 outbreak had spread on the MSC Virtuosa.
Some passengers were kept in isolation on board after having tested positive for coronavirus, or coming into close contact with those with the virus.
During that cruise, signs started to emerge that matters had changed with screens being erected in the dining room and new signage going up about remaining safe.
Norma Villiers, 79, was tested positive for Covid yesterday and was split up from her 81-year-old husband Barry and taken to an isolation cabin.
Today, a spokesman for MSC Cruises told the ECHO: “First, we are devastated to have learned of the passing of a guest and want to extend our deepest condolences to his family, loved ones and friends.
“We have since made contact with the family to understand the situation, offer any help we can give and share our condolences.
“We always feel a strong duty of care and responsibility for our guests.
“Our records show that in line with our health and safety protocol all members of his party tested negative before embarkation including the guest in question.
“Mid-cruise, also in line with the protocol, the three children in the group – as they were non vaccinated – were tested all returning negative results.
“The adults, who were all fully vaccinated, opted not to have any further tests and did not report any symptoms to our medical staff while on board nor showed any temperature during the multiple daily checks available throughout the ship.
“Of course this situation is deeply distressing for the family but we truly wish they could have alerted us to any of their concerns regarding their own health whilst onboard so we could have activated further measures under our protocol to protect them, our crew and the communities we visit.
“We would have provided tests and further, more prompt medical care and attention, as well as a carefully managed disembarkation in cooperation with the local health authorities again both for their protection as well as that of other guests and crew.
“This is how our protocol works to protect everyone on board and involved with our operations.
“In any case, we are again truly sorry to hear what happened and will remain in close contact with the family of the guest in question.”
MSC Cruises said they had strengthened Covid protocols in line with rising rates ashore including increased testing on board in order to identify any suspect cases, isolate them and provide immediate medical assistance.
Crew in hazmat suits were said to be deployed because of additional sanitisation and cleaning that requires additional personal protection when being carried out.
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