Most of the passengers of the Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer, anchored in Uruguayan waters since two weeks With more than 100 cases of coronavirus on board, they departed on a medical plane for Melbourne.
Around 110 Australians and New Zealanders from the ship carrying more than 200 people, of whom 128 tested positive in tests of covid-19 according to the shipping company that owns the boat, andThey are on their way home on a flight that will last more than 12 hours.
“He knelt down, kissed our land and left. Now yes, everyone aboard the plane, ”Uruguayan Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi tweeted minutes before takeoff, along with the video of the last passenger who boarded the ship making that symbolic gesture of thanks.
Earlier, in the port, Talvi had cataloged this “Complex but necessary humanitarian mission” as an “ethical imperative”.
The Uruguayan government, which considered everyone on the cruise ship to be contaminated by coronaviruses, coordinated the evacuation in “very close collaboration” with its Australian counterpart and with shipping company Aurora Expeditions.
The operation began around 6:30 p.m. on Friday, when the ship left the anchoring area and docked in the port of Montevideo. Three hours later, the passengers disembarked and boarded four buses that took them, with a strong police escort, directly to the runway of the air terminal.
There they boarded an Airbus A340 specially equipped for a medical evacuation and with health personnel on board.
The plane was organized by risk zones, “with passengers seated based on test results and the level of care required,” Aurora Expeditions said.
Televised images of the cruise showed how some passengers brandished a flag with the inscription “Gracias Uruguay”.
The Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, also appreciated this Friday the work of the Uruguayan administration.
“Thank you very much Ernesto Talvi for his sincere help in ensuring that Australian passengers can head home,” he tweeted, rooting for the Uruguayan foreign minister.
While, five of the eight people who days ago had to leave the ship to be hospitalized in Montevideo due to severe coronavirus symptoms were discharged, the chancellor reported Friday.
Among them are three Australian passengers who boarded the humanitarian flight.
The others are two Filipino crew members who will return to the ship to quarantine.
A British citizen and two Australians will remain interned in the Uruguayan capital. These last two, a man and a woman, have their partners on the ship, who stayed in Montevideo.
“With all the sanitary guarantees, they are going to be taken to the hospital so that they are accompanying their spouses. It is a difficult time for them, we did not want them to leave when their husband and wife are here having a difficult time and they are alone Talvi said.
As long as, orTwo Filipino crew were transferred this Friday night to Montevideo hospitals.
They are “two patients in a state of serious seriousness, according to what the ship’s doctor told us,” Marcelo Gilard, in charge of the health part of the evacuation operation, told the press.
There are still more than 80 crew members and about twenty American and European passengers still on the cruise.
After stocking up on water, fuel and food and evacuating waste, the ship will return this Saturday to the anchoring area, about 20 km from the port of Montevideo.
“When the quarantine ends, the remaining passengers will surely be able to return via commercial lines and the crew will return to the intended destination of the ship,” Talvi said.
The shipping company reported Friday that it is working on charter flight options to be able to return Europeans and Americans to their homes.
The Bahamas-flagged Greg Mortimer set sail from Ushuaia on March 15, where he planned to head to the Falkland Islands, the South Georgia and then sail the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
But after the first signs of the covid-19 among passengers, which according to hypotheses could be contaminated in the southern Argentine city, the ship changed course and ended up stranded in front of Montevideo.
The Uruguayan government did not give him permission to disembark but sent a group of doctors and laboratory personnel to perform swabs and provide medical assistance.