Stranded liner evacuation to follow 'strict measures'

Montevideo (AFP) –


The evacuation of 112 Australian and New Zealander passengers from a stranded cruise ship infested with the coronavirus will take place "under strict sanitary measures," Uruguay's foreign minister said on Thursday.

The virus-stricken Australian liner Greg Mortimer has been anchored off the coast of Uruguay's capital Montevideo for almost two weeks. More than half of the 217 people aboard have tested positive for coronavirus.

"Tomorrow the humanitarian corridor will be carried out," said Ernesto Talvi in publishing a detailed evacuation procedure.

"The corridor will operate under strict sanitary measures," the foreign minister added on Twitter.

The tourists will be taken on buses with a police escort to Montevideo's international airport where they will board a medically equipped Airbus A350 that will fly them to Melbourne, Australia.

The operation will begin on Friday evening with the flight taking off in the early hours of Saturday.

The passengers will be taken straight to the runway without entering the terminal.

Press will be allowed to cover the operation, but at a distance of 300 meters.

"There will be practically no human contact" between the passengers and others, Talvi said on Wednesday.

He said a list of the passengers and their state of health would be sent to Australian authorities.

Both those that have tested positive and others to have tested negative will be aboard the flight and will have to stay in quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Melbourne.

According to the ship's owners Aurore Expeditions, 128 people aboard the liner have tested positive, among them crew and passengers.

Eight people have been taken ashore for hospital treatment after showing signs that their lives were at risk.

Even after the evacuation, more than 80 crew members and around 20 Europeans and Americans will remain on board the Greg Mortimer.

Of those that have tested positive for the virus "they will have to wait until they test negative" before heading home via Sao Paulo, Aurore said on Tuesday.

Those that have already tested negative will be allowed to leave in the coming days, provided they pass another test first.