81 Coronavirus Cases Aboard Expedition Cruise Ship Greg Mortimer

Greg Mortimer moored off Montevideo (Amb. Ian Duddy / British Embassy)

Published Apr 6, 2020 1:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

At the request of operator Aurora Expeditions, a team of Uruguayan infectious disease specialists is testing everyone on board the cruise ship Greg Mortimer for COVID-19.

Samples were taken aboard the Mortimer at a mooring point off Montevideo, and 81 out of the 126 people evaluated to date have tested positive. 90 tests are still pending and the results should be available by Tuesday, Aurora said. 

In an example of COVID-19's dangerous potential for undetected spread, all 81 of the positive cases on board Greg Mortimer are currently asymptomatic. Though infected and potentially infectious, they were declared healthy in a clinical assessment.

There are three other individuals in a hospital and a further three that have been disembarked and placed in hospital in a non-intensive care setting in Montevideo, as they are considered higher risk, Aurora said. The ill personnel aboard the Mortimer include one of the ship's doctors, according to reports; passengers identified the medic's volunteer replacement as Dr. John Clifford, 71, an orthopedic surgeon from Australia. 

Together with Uruguayan authorities, Aurora Expeditions is finalizing plans for disembarking all remaining passengers. Individuals who have tested negative will be provided with a copy of their test results, and the operator is confident that they will be allowed to leave the ship for repatriation. Planning for those who have tested positive but are in healthy condition - the largest passenger group - is still under way. 

The Mortimer departed on March 15 on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia, two days after leading American cruise operators suspended departures due to COVID-19. Prior to sailing, Aurora implemented temperature checks, denied boarding for those travelling from or through coronavirus-affected hotspots, and had passengers complete in-depth health questionnaires and screening prior to boarding.