More than 1,000 passengers aboard a cruise ship docked in the capital will be flown back to their home countries on Tuesday (Mar 24) even though a fellow passenger tested positive for coronavirus, the interior ministry said today.
En route from Brazil, the MSC Fantasia arrived in Lisbon on Sunday and passengers, mostly from the European Union, Britain, Brazil and Australia, have since been waiting for repatriation efforts to begin.
Government authorities initially said all passengers would stay on board until they had been tested for the virus but only Portuguese passengers ended up getting the test, health authorities said.
The 39 Portuguese citizens and residency permit holders on board were given the green light to disembark on Monday. One tested positive for the coronavirus and they are all in isolation at home, the interior ministry stated.
To tackle the spread of COVID-19, cruise ships are no longer allowed to disembark foreign passengers. Portugal, which declared a state of emergency on Wednesday with restrictions on movement to people, is coordinating the repatriation of the passengers with embassies from various countries.
Repatriation flights will take off throughout the day from Lisbon to Germany, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The flights have capacity for 1,140 of the 1,299 people still on board the ship.
"As planned, these citizens will leave the ship and be escorted to Humberto Delgado airport in Lisbon for flights back to their countries of origin," the interior ministry concluded.
Images showed passengers being taken to the airport by bus. It is not clear when and if the remaining 159 will be repatriated.
The final destination of the ship, which left Rio de Janeiro on Mar 9 and can carry 4,363 passengers and 1,370 crew, had been Genoa in Italy, the European country worst affected by the virus.