The crew of the Australian-owned cruise ship Greg Mortimer have started disembarking in Montevideo after being in virus lockdown off Uruguay for more than a month, the country’s foreign minister, Ernesto Talvi, says.
“Citizens can trust that the operation is being carried out with the maximum health guarantees for all,” Mr Talvi said on Twitter.
“It is a moment of great joy.”
More than 100 passengers from Australia and New Zealand were flown home from the Antarctic cruise ship in April, but the crew remained on board.
The evacuated passengers were quarantined in Melbourne hotels for two weeks.
Since then, at least 35 of the more than 80 crew members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Uruguayan media.
Fear of more infections and the crew’s growing despair prompted the authorities to allow them to disembark.
“A nightmare is over,” crew member Javier Alvarado told the daily El Pais.
The infected crew members were taken by bus to a hotel, where they will be put under quarantine, according to the newspaper.
The group that tested negative was due to be taken to another hotel. They were expected to be confined there until at least Sunday.
The Greg Mortimer will stay moored in a closed port area, El Pais quoted Juan Curbelo, the president of the National Port Administration, as saying.
Whether the ship can continue travelling to its original destination would be evaluated later, Mr Curbelo said. The Greg Mortimer was reportedly due to end its voyage in the Canary Islands.
Elsewhere, the evacuated passengers are reportedly about to launch a class action. In a statement of claim, they accuse Sydney-based Aurora Expeditions of endangering the safety of 217 people by allowing the vessel to leave Argentina on March 15, despite repeated warnings from health officials about the heightened risk of infection on cruise ships.