Coronavirus: Crew on virus-hit cruise ship allowed to disembark in Uruguay

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Crew members disembarkingImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Crew members have been on board for almost two months

Crew members from the coronavirus-hit cruise ship Greg Mortimer have been allowed to disembark in Uruguay, after almost two months at sea.

Of the more than 60 crew members, 36 tested positive for the virus.

The ship's passengers had already disembarked last month and flown home.

Meanwhile, two crew members became seriously ill with Covid-19 and were hospitalised. One, who was from the Philippines, later died. The other recovered and was flown home to Poland.

After disembarking on Tuesday, crew members who had tested positive were taken to a hotel in Montevideo to be quarantined, while the others were taken to a separate hotel in the city.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Of the more than 60 crew members on board, 36 tested positive for the coronavirus

The Greg Mortimer, owned by the Australian firm Aurora Expeditions, was taking more than 200 people to Antarctica, South Georgia and Elephant Island - but the tour was called off on 20 March.

This was because the nearest South American countries - Argentina and Chile - had closed their borders and imposed lockdowns.

It eventually anchored off Montevideo on 27 March, but wasn't allowed to dock in the port until 10 April.

Uruguay's Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi said it was necessary to allow the crew to disembark because the people who were infected with the virus were not recovering.

"If we don't remove them, they won't heal," he said at the port. "We took the decision to disembark them, taking all health measures for the citizenry."

Mr Talvi added that none of the 36 crew who had tested positive were showing symptoms, and that the ship would be thoroughly disinfected.

The hotels in which the crew will be quarantined are closed to the public, and are being supervised by the health ministry. The crew won't be allowed to leave their rooms and will have daily health checks.

After two weeks, people with no symptoms and a negative test result will be allowed to leave Uruguay on commercial flights.

Another 20 crew members are remaining on board, however, because they are considered essential to the boat's safety. They have all tested negative for the virus.

If they still test negative "in two or three weeks", the boat will sail to Las Palmas in Spain, Mr Talvi said.