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Last passengers of virus-hit cruise ship off Uruguay will be evacuated to US

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Montevideo (AFP)

The remaining passengers of a coronavirus-hit cruise ship that spent two weeks stranded off the coast of Uruguay will be evacuated to the United States, the US Embassy said Tuesday.

Nearly 25 passengers and around 80 crew members remain on the ship Greg Mortimer after 110 Australians and New Zealanders left Uruguay Saturday on a charter flight taking them home.

The ship had spent more than two weeks off the port of Montevideo with more than 200 people aboard, among whom more than 100 cases of coronavirus infection were detected.

The US Embassy said in a statement Tuesday that the passengers still on the ship, including six US citizens, will be flown to the United States on a plane fitted with medical equipment. The flight is being organized by the cruise ship's owner, Aurora Expeditions.

The plane was scheduled to land Tuesday in Montevideo and then leave for Miami Wednesday, weather permitting, the statement said.

The non-US passengers will stop over in Miami and then take medevac flights to their countries.

To get the passengers from the ship to the Montevideo airport, a "sanitary corridor" will be created so as to ensure safe transport of people exposed to the virus. The same procedure was followed with the Australians and New Zealanders, too.

The crew of the Greg Mortimer will remain in quarantine on the ship.

The ship had been on an expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia and Elephant Island when the adventure was called off on March 20 due to the nearest South American countries -- Argentina and Chile -- closing their borders and imposing lockdowns.

The ship traveled to Montevideo as it was the nearest port still open.

It had been anchored in the Rio de la Plata, 20 kilometers from the coast since March 27.

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