Eighty-one people on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship, which has been stranded off the coast of Uruguay for almost two weeks and has over 90 Australians on board, have tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement on Monday the cruise ship owners, Australian company Aurora Expeditions, said two crew members and one passenger had been taken off the ship which had been on an Antarctic expedition.

Over 120 other passengers and staff were tested for COVID-19, with 81 passengers testing positive and 45 testing negative. Another 90 test results are expected to be processed over the next 12 to 24 hours.

The nationalities of those who tested positive were not disclosed.

“Aside from the people who are stable and in hospital in Montevideo, the passengers who have tested positive are currently asymptomatic, having been clinically assessed by the infectious disease specialists and not found to be unhealthy or require health status monitoring at this stage,” the cruise ship operator said in a statement.

The cruise operator said they were continuing to work with Uruguayan authorities to have those who tested negative for COVID-19 removed from the ship and on chartered flights home as soon as possible.

“This has been extraordinarily complicated given most commercial routes have stopped and the majority of airlines have discontinued flying and access to charter planes is difficult,” the company said.

“We have informed our passengers that the advice from the authorities is that everyone who can leave, must leave. The disembarkation and country exit path will not be available on an ongoing basis. As you know, our aim is to disembark everyone who is able to travel,” they added.

Rescue operations

Uruguayan Navy has activated the emergency protocol in order to rescue passengers with delicate health conditions and transfer them to hospitals in Montevideo. A team of doctors from the Ministry of Health and two private health centers from the capital has been deployed to assist in this operation.