MONTEVIDEO: Uruguay started on Friday (Apr 10) to repatriate 112 Australians and New Zealanders from a cruise ship hit by COVID-19 and stranded in the La Plata River near the capital of Montevideo since March 27, the government said.
The operation began in the evening when the Greg Mortimer, an Antarctic cruise ship operated by Aurora Expeditions, docked in the port of Montevideo.
The passengers, most of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus, went by bus to a special airport terminal with strict health controls. They are scheduled to board a Melbourne-bound charter flight in the early hours of Saturday.
Two Australian passengers could not be transported as they had to stay in intensive care at a hospital because of their poor condition, Uruguay's Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi said.
The "humanitarian corridor" will allow the 96 Australians and 16 New Zealanders to return home but excludes passengers of other nationalities, who will stay on board pending negotiations with their countries.
These include Americans, Britons, Jamaicans and people of various European nations, the ministry added.