MOSCOW, March 20. /TASS/. Russia’s Embassy in France has sent a note to the French Foreign Ministry requesting it to iron out the situation with Russian tourists, who have been unable to leave the Costa Pacifica cruise ship anchored near Marseille, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Friday.
Some 35 Russian tourists and four Belarusian nationals are onboard the vessel. "Russia’s consulate general in Marseille and the Russian Embassy in Paris have been taking active steps over the past days to arrange their meeting in Marseille," the diplomat said. "No permission has been obtained so far. The Russian Embassy in Paris has sent a note to the French Foreign Ministry with a request to sort out the situation."
The vessel left Buenos Aires on March 3 and on March 21 all tourists were scheduled to disembark in Spain’s Barcelona. Later that day they were expected to take a flight to Moscow and other Russian cities. However, the Spanish government barred cruise ships from entering the country’s ports amid the coronavirus and the vessel changed the route, heading to Marseille. Now the French authorities are refusing to issue permission for tourists to disembark in Marseille.
"At the moment the ship’s crew has been informed about a possible new change of the route and that the passengers could disembark in Genoa (Italy)," Zakharova said, noting that this complicates their return to Russia.
"In view of this, we express hope that the French authorities will understand the situation of tourists who are onboard the ship and will do their utmost to solve the situation. People have been onboard the ship since March 9 without any stops," she noted.
Earlier, the French Foreign Ministry announced that French citizens and EU nationals together with their spouses and children could enter France to return home. However, the residents of other countries were not allowed to arrive in France for 30 days, but there is no ban on leaving the national territory.
The coronavirus outbreak was registered in central China in late December 2019. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. COVID-19 infection cases have been recorded in more than 140 countries. According to the latest data, over 210,000 people have contracted the virus and about 8,500 have died. In Russia, 199 coronavirus cases have been registered.