Sixteen New Zealanders stranded on a Covid-19-stricken cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay are returning home.
A medivac charter flight carrying New Zealand and Australian cruise ship passengers, arranged by cruise operator Aurora Expeditions, has recently departed from Montevideo in Uruguay, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.
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. Three Australia-based New Zealanders will remain across the Tasman.
“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,” Mr Peters said.
“Their imminent return to New Zealand is a seriously welcome result.”
All passengers onboard the flight were being treated as Covid-19 positive as a precautionary measure after a large proportion of passengers on the Greg Mortimer tested positive for the illness.
“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.”
Mr Peters said consular officials must navigate "extremely complex circumstances every day to find solutions that work," adding that Government-chartered flights cannot always be relied upon in all locations.
“Our advice to New Zealanders overseas remains to shelter safely where you are, or return home by commercial means," he said.
“We are also working with our partners wherever we can to help people whose plans to return to New Zealand have been thwarted."
The passengers will immediately go into quarantine upon their arrival home.