MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi said on Tuesday that the evacuation procedure for the crew of the Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer, many of whom are infected with the coronavirus, is “showing the world” what Uruguay can do in complicated situations.
“Uruguay is showing the world that in difficult (situations), when things get hot the country responds. You see that in countries, as in people, during difficulties,” Talvi told reporters who had gathered at the Port of Montevideo to cover the event.
Remaining on board the vessel, anchored 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) off the Uruguayan coast, are about 90 members of the crew after more than 120 passengers were evacuated and returned to their homelands on two medical flights that departed from Montevideo on April 10 and April 15, carrying 112 people to Australia and 15 to the United States, Canada and several European countries.
Twenty “COVID-negative” crewmembers will remain on board the ship as a “minimal” security crew, Talvi said, adding that four additional crewmembers had been dispatched to the vessel by the Australian cruise company Aurora Expeditions, which owns the Greg Mortimer, while the rest will remain in quarantine in two Montevideo hotels with the 36 who have tested positive for COVID-19 being separated from those who have tested negative.
“The prefecture will monitor things. They’re going to disinfect to eliminate the virus, so that the people who are negative will stay negative,” Talvi said.
The Uruguayan official emphasized that all the crewmembers are “asymptomatic,” and so no “later difficulties” are anticipated by the authorities.
In any case, he said, the crew will undergo the “necessary medical checks” and, if needed, will receive the “necessary attention.”
After spending 14 days in quarantine, in “total and complete isolation” and after a second negative COVID-19 test, the non-essential crewmembers will be able to return to their countries via the air connection between Montevideo and Sao Paulo, Brazil, maintained by Uruguay’s Amazonas airline, Talvi said.
Once all the ship’s essential personnel test negative and the disinfection is completed, Uruguay will authorize the vessel to set sail for Las Palmas, Spain, its original destination.
A “similar process” will be followed with the two passengers who are still hospitalized in Montevideo, accompanied by their spouses, and “as they are cured” they will be released and may leave the country on commercial flights, Uruguay’s top diplomat said.
The Uruguayan government decided to evacuate the crew after verifying that the disease outbreak on board the ship would not diminish and, thus, authorities could not authorize the ship to set sail.
The Greg Mortimer departed from Ushuaia, Argentina, en route for the Canary Islands and arrived at Montevideo after one of the people on board, the first to be evacuated on March 31, developed health problems and no other nearby port would allow anyone to disembark from the ship.
Since that time, the ship has remained in the “service zone” about 20 kilometers offshore.
On April 17, a 48-year-old Filipino crewmember died in Montevideo after being admitted to a local hospital with respiratory problems.