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- More than half of those on board an Antarctic cruise ship have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
- The ship is stranded off the coast of Uruguay and not allowed to dock over concerns on the spread of the virus.
- Passengers from Australia and New Zealand are expected to board a flight headed to Australia for a 14-day quarantine before being repatriated on Thursday, the cruise line said.
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Almost 60% of the 217 people on board an Antarctic cruise ship have already tested positive for the coronavirus, CNN reported.
Australian and New Zealand passengers on the Greg Mortimer ship will be evacuated from the ship on Thursday. The ship started its journey on March 15 to Antarctica and South Georgia but has been stuck off the coast Uruguay since the beginning of this month, according to CNN.
Additionally, six people who tested positive needed medical care and were transported to a facility in Montevideo, Uruguay, according to CNN.
—Armada Uruguay (@Armada_Uruguay) April 4, 2020
The cruise ship is run by Australia’s Aurora expedition. Passengers who will be evacuated will fly to Melbourne on an Aurora chartered plane and be quarantined for 14 days before going home, according to a statement.
The company will use an Airbus 340 plane.
“The plane going to Australia is set up with medical facilities for this type of situation and will be managed in alignment with current COVID-19 protocol to ensure the health and safety of all on board,” the statement read.
Aurora estimated that the cost per passenger for the flight would be a little more than $9,000 and said it’s discussing financial support with the Australian government since the cost would be too expensive for most.
Aurora previously said the ship’s doctor also had a fever and they were looking to find a volunteer medic.
Officials in Uruguay were worried about coronavirus spread and refused to allow the ship, where now 128 of the 217 passengers have COVID-19, to dock.
In a statement, Aurora said they were trying to have all passengers evacuated but it’s difficult to get flights who repatriate everyone on board.
“While our preferred plan had been to disembark all passengers simultaneously, the nature of the situation and the difficultly in securing flights has meant it is likely that the Australian and New Zealand passengers will leave the vessel before our European (the UK included) and North American passengers,” the statement read.
Europeans and Americans who tested positive while have to stay on the ship until they test negative. However, Aurora said all passengers will be retested every two or three days.
Coronavirus clusters have occurred on a number of other cruise ships, including the Diamond Princess where more than 700 of the people on board tested positive for the virus.