Dozens of passengers on a crippled cruise ship where more than half onboard have coronavirus are finally being offered a route home — at almost $10,000-a-head.
The “Greg Mortimer” is stranded off the coast of Uruguay with 128 of the 132 passengers and 85 crew testing positive for COVID-19, the ship’s operator, Aurora Expeditions, said in a statement.
The 96 Australians and 16 New Zealanders onboard are now being offered a special flight home in an Airbus 340 that has been refitted to separate passengers infected with coronavirus, Aurora Expeditions said in a statement.
It will cost at least $9,300 for each passenger — which Aurora is pleading for the Australian government to cover.
“We know that it is not viable for many people and we are working on a solution,” the company insisted.
“We have shared this information with our passengers to be 100% transparent and are doing everything we can to ensure this full amount is not passed on to each individual.”
The high price “reflects the global aviation situation” as well as the special cleaning needed for the plane being brought in from Portugal, the firm said.
Doctor Sebastian Yancev participated in the operation to diagnose and treat passengers on the Australian Greg Mortimer cruise ship.AP/Matilde Campodonico
Once in Melbourne, the passengers would then need to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival at a facility in Melbourne, the company said.
The smaller number of passengers that will remain — from the US and Europe — will have to wait until they test negative before leaving.
“Ideally, we hope that these passengers will be allowed to finish their quarantine onshore once the Australians and New Zealanders are off the vessel,” the company said.
Uruguay initially refused permission for passengers to disembark. But videos showed some of the sickest finally being evacuated, including two Australians with”pneumonia and coronavirus” on Wednesday.
One passenger, a doctor, told ABC Australia that they initially thought the cruise was a “nice, safe bubble away from the problems of the world.”
Dr. John Clifford was “disillusioned when, six days later, fellow passengers’ temperatures started to rise,” he said of the ship that was eventually stranded off Uruguay on March 27.
“Medical expertise does not have this in its armamentarium and I could not have envisaged this at the time I left Australia.”
A 75-year-old Australian passenger suffering from pneumonia is moved from the Greg Mortimer cruise liner to an ambulance in Montevideo, Uruguay.AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images
He said their travel insurance had been voided. “We would like the government to lean on the insurance companies — they’re very good at taking on risk then running for the covers at any opportunity of having to pay out,” he said.
With Post wires