Cruise Ship With One COVID-19 Case to Test All Healthy Passengers

The Greg Mortimer off Montevideo (Amb. Ian Duddy / Twitter)

Published Apr 2, 2020 9:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The new expedition cruise ship Greg Mortimer has become the latest vessel stranded at sea with a known COVID-19 case. The ship is anchored off Montevideo, Uruguay with nine individuals with flu-like illness on board, including the ship's doctor. One passenger has been evacuated in critical condition and has tested positive for the disease. 

Uruguayan authorities have not yet given permission for the ship to berth and discharge her passengers for repatriation flights. In a departure from the approach taken by other cruise lines in similar circumstances, Aurora Expedition plans to help speed up disembarkation by testing all of the healthy passengers on board. 

“As part of the strategy to get you off the ship, we will start comprehensive testing on our healthy passengers. We have been in contact with the Atgen-Diagnostica Lab in Montevideo that is approved and authorized by the Uruguay Health Ministry. They are sending collection kits for us to commence testing," the company said in an update. 

Prior to the Mortimer's departure, 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. Despite these precautionary measures, the novel coronavirus found its way on board. The Mortimer's crew has sought out a doctor among the passengers to help fulfill the duties of the ship's own physician, who has also developed a fever. Passengers identified the volunteer replacement as Dr. John Clifford, 71, an orthopedic surgeon from Australia. 

"There is no doubt this is the most challenging situation any of us have every experienced and our thoughts are with you," Aurora wrote in a message to passengers' families. "All relevant government authorities are 100 per cent engaged."