Australian and New Zealand passengers stranded on the Aurora Expeditions vessel Greg Mortimer will be evacuated on a humanitarian flight on April 9. Ernesto Talvi Uruguay’s foreign minister announced that the flight will retrieve 112 Australian and New Zealand passengers from the stricken ship.
Almost 60 percent of the people onboard Greg Mortimer—or 128 out of the 217 passengers and crew—have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The situation on board the ship is said to be dire, with elderly medical practitioners being asked to help treat those who are ill. On April 2, Margaret Zacharin from Melbourne told the Herald that her husband John Clifford, 71, an orthopedic surgeon, was among those being asked to step in and treat the sick.
“He’s not the right person to go and run around a ship tending to COVID-positive passengers. This is not actually very sensible, but that’s the option,” said Zacharin.
The government of Uruguay also announced that two more passengers have now been evacuated from the ship for medical care, making a total of eight passengers who were taken to Montevideo, the capital and largest city in Uruguay, according to local media El Observador. Those at less risk or who are younger will shelter on board until they are better.
🔴AHORA: Tercer pasajera británica con síntomas de COVID-19 es embarcada en Lancha “Isla de Flores” ⚓️🇺🇾 pic.twitter.com/Rzgl5Q3Xbo
— Armada Uruguay (@Armada_Uruguay) April 4, 2020
In a media release, Aurora Expeditions explained that they have arranged a specially outfitted, medically-equipped Airbus 340 for the flight so that those who do not have the virus can travel separately to those who are currently symptomatic. It will cost an estimated $15,000 per passenger for the evacuation, the company said. They have reached out to the Australian government to help with this expense.
The notice to passengers from the company also explained that Australian Border Force requested the flight land in Melbourne, and for all passengers to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine there at a not-yet named facility.
The New Zealand citizens on the flight are expected to be allowed ashore for their 14-day quarantine before returning home. Passengers from the United States and Europe will be forced to remain on the ship until they return a negative test result.
Before the nightmare outbreak, the ship set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina—the southern-most city in the world—for a two-week cruise. It was billed as following the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton, an Irish polar explorer who was integral to Australia’s exploration of Antarctica. Passengers first became aware something was wrong on April 1 when a man was airlifted off the vessel.
There is currently a 30-day ban on all cruise ships entering Australian waters, however, four cruise ships—including Ruby Princess—were allowed to dock during this time.