More than half of passengers on board Antarctica-bound cruise have coronavirus

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Nearly 60 percent of people on board a cruise ship that was sailing toward Antarctica have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

The Greg Mortimer, a cruise ship operated by Australia-based travel company Aurora Expeditions, is currently off the coast of Uruguay. Of the 217 total passengers and crew from Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe, at least 128 had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday night, CNN reported.

Eighty-nine people tested negative for the virus. Six were brought ashore in Montevideo for medical treatment and are all in stable condition. 

The cruise departed on March 15. It was intended to bring passengers to Antarctica and South Georgia Island, but it has been off the coast of Uruguay near Montevideo since the beginning of April, according to CNN. 

Aurora Expeditions said they are working with health officials to treat those on board and return them to their respective countries. Those who have remained on the boat are currently asymptomatic and do not have fevers as of Tuesday, Fox News reported.

Passengers from Australia and New Zealand will fly to Melbourne in a plane chartered by the company Saturday, according to a press statement from Aurora Expeditions updated Friday. The plane will be fitted with medical and quarantine facilities.

The cruise line confirmed that it is in talks with the Australian government for help chartering the medically equipped Airbus, estimating that the cost to fly each passenger home will total approximately $9,300, CNN reported. 

The company said it is working on return plans for passengers from the United Kingdom and North America but that they will need to remain on the boat until they test negative for the coronavirus, Fox News reported. 

“We are continuing to make good progress on a number of fronts,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement updated Friday. “Our priority remains getting everyone on board disembarked as soon and as safely as possible. It has been a very harrowing time for all involved and we are pleased to be able to confirm the plans moving forward.”

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