South America

Greg Mortimer: 81 people test positive for COVID-19 on Australian cruise ship off Uruguay

The MV Greg Mortimer. Source: Supplied

The operator of a cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay with almost 100 Australian passengers stuck on board says 81 passengers and staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Eighty-one people on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship, which has been stranded off the coast of Uruguay for almost two weeks and has over 90 Australians on board, have tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement on Monday the cruise ship owners, Australian company Aurora Expeditions, said two crew members and one passenger had been taken off the ship which had been on an Antarctic expedition.

Over 120 other passengers and staff were tested for COVID-19, with 81 passengers testing positive and 45 testing negative.

Another 90 test results are expected to be processed over the next 12 to 24 hours.

The nationalities of those who tested positive were not disclosed. 

“Aside from the people who are stable and in hospital in Montevideo, the passengers who have tested positive are currently asymptomatic, having been clinically assessed by the infectious disease specialists and not found to be unhealthy or require health status monitoring at this stage,” the cruise ship operator said in a statement.

Sydney residents Elesa and Phil Bennett are among 96 Australian citizens stuck on the MV Greg Mortimer where a passenger tested positive to COVID-19.
Sydney residents Elesa and Phil Bennett are among 96 Australian citizens stuck on the MV Greg Mortimer where a passenger tested positive to COVID-19.

On Friday, SBS News spoke to some of the families of those on board the ship.

One of them, Sydney resident Nicholas Bennett, told SBS News he was extremely concerned for his parents - Phil, 77, and Elesa, 72 - who were on a "trip of a lifetime" when the pandemic hit and are now trapped on the ship.

"They're pretty much sitting ducks now," he said. "My father is pretty old, he's in his 70s, and they are high risk so I'm very worried about them."

The cruise operator said they were continuing to work with Uruguayan authorities to have those who tested negative for COVID-19 removed from the ship and on chartered flights home as soon as possible.  

“This has been extraordinarily complicated given most commercial routes have stopped and the majority of airlines have discontinued flying and access to charter planes is difficult,” the company said.

“We have informed our passengers that the advice from the authorities is that everyone who can leave, must leave. The disembarkation and country exit path will not be available on an ongoing basis. As you know, our aim is to disembark everyone who is able to travel,” they added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been contacted for comment.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at

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