Over half of passengers repatriated from COVID-19-stricken Greg Mortimer

Greg Mortimer. Credit: Aurora Expeditions

A specially chartered flight, carrying 96 Australian and 16 New Zealand passengers from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infected Aurora Expeditions vessel Greg Mortimer, an Arctic cruise ship, arrived in Sydney, Australia.

After docking at Montevideo’s Pier D, the passengers travelled on buses, with a police escort, to the airport. Immigration procedures were performed electronically.

Their Airbus A340 aircraft, specially chartered by Aurora and kitted out with medical and quarantine facilities, carried them from Montevideo to Sydney Airport. Aurora Expeditions has asked the Australian government for assistance with the cost of the flight, which amounted to USD9,300 per passenger.

Meanwhile, the quarantined vessel remains at anchor. Having left in mid-March, it cut short its Antarctic cruising itinerary after 128 of its 217 passengers tested positive for COVID-19, and the ship’s doctor fell ill too. Uruguayan special medical teams have been sent on board to conduct testing of the remaining passengers, which include US, European, and British passengers.

Six severely ill passengers requiring intensive care, five of them Australian, have been transferred to a British-owned private hospital in Montevideo, yielding dramatic footage of one figure wearing a hazmat suit from the deck of Greg Mortimer to that of a rescue vessel.

The repatriation of northern hemisphere nationalities will be more complicated, as it will likely require several airport transfers. Aurora said that plans were being drawn up for the repatriation of the remaining European and US passengers.