Sixteen New Zealanders stranded on a Covid-19 stricken cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay are making their way home, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.
A medivac charter flight carrying New Zealand and Australian Greg Mortimer cruise ship passengers, which was arranged by cruise operator Aurora Expeditions, took off a short while ago from Montevideo, Uruguay. The flight is scheduled to land in Melbourne tomorrow morning.
A Government chartered medivac plane will then fly 13 New Zealanders from Melbourne to Auckland airport, with three Australia-based New Zealanders remaining in Australia.
“These New Zealanders were in a position of real risk, where they were unable to shelter safely on the ship and were not in a position to return home via commercial means,” said Mr Peters.
“Their imminent return to New Zealand is a seriously welcome result.”
As a large proportion of passengers on the Greg Mortimer tested positive for COVID-19, all passengers were being treated as though they were COVID-positive as a precautionary measure.
“A considerable amount of work has been put in to assist all 16 New Zealanders, who were in a dangerous situation with very limited options,” Mr Peters said.
“We are deeply appreciative of the assistance we have received from Aurora Expeditions, and the Governments of Uruguay and Australia, in making this repatriation flight possible.”
“Consular officials are navigating extremely complex circumstances every day, to find solutions that work, though Government chartered flights cannot be relied upon in a great many locations.
“Our advice to New Zealanders overseas remains to shelter safely where you are, or return home by commercial means.
“We are also working with our partners wherever we can to help people whose plans to return to New Zealand have been thwarted,” Mr Peters said.