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46 tourists stuck on virus-hit Nile cruise boat fly home

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Luxor (Egypt) (AFP)

Egyptian authorities said Wednesday that 46 French and US tourists who had been quarantined on a coronavirus-hit Nile cruise boat have flown home.

They were among dozens of foreign tourists and Egyptian crew who had been either confined to the vessel or hospitalised after an outbreak of the virus.

A health ministry statement said that the repatriated French and American tourists had left the A-Sara cruise boat overnight, noting that 45 people aboard the vessel had previously tested positive for the virus.

On Wednesday 18 Indian tourists were also taken to Cairo airport to fly home, a senior official in the tourism sector, Abdel Fattah al-Assi, said.

He said they were the last foreign travellers stuck since last week on the boat, which had been carrying around 171 passengers and crew.

The health ministry said the foreigners were "repatriated... at the request of their countries and in coordination with the World Health Organization".

Egyptian authorities had on Saturday reported moving 45 suspected coronavirus cases -- 33 passengers and 12 crew -- from the boat into isolation at Marsa Matrouh, a resort town on the Mediterranean coast.

On Tuesday authorities said that 25 of whose who had initially tested positive for the virus had since tested negative.

Frenchman Lucas Bonnamy said those cleared to leave were told on Tuesday afternoon to pack their bags, signed documents and were then escorted by police to the airport in the southern tourist city of Luxor.

From there they caught a flight to Cairo and then onwards home, said Bonnamy, who had posted an "SOS" message on Facebook Saturday criticising quarantine conditions on the ship.

On Monday night, the health ministry said the total number of confirmed cases in Egypt had risen to 59, including three more Egyptians and a foreign woman.

The previous day a German tourist died of coronavirus in Egypt -- the first death from the disease recorded in Africa.

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