More than 60 crew members from the coronavirus-hit cruise ship Greg Mortimer were allowed on Tuesday to disembark in Uruguay to quarantine in two hotels.

The crew began disembarking onto buses at around midday. The liner had been moored in Montevideo's port since Monday.

Of those on board, 36 had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and were due to be taken to a specially equipped hotel.

The rest were due to be taken to a different hotel.

Uruguay's Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi said on Tuesday the disembarkation was necessary because the infected passengers were not recovering from the virus.

"If we don't remove them, they won't heal," Talvi said from the port as he oversaw the operation.

"We took the decision to disembark them taking all health measures for the citizenry," he added, insisting there would be "no risks."

The crew has remained on board long after the ship's passengers -- including scores of Australians -- were allowed to disembark in Montevideo and flown home in a protracted mid-April operation.

Two seriously ill crew were hospitalized. One, a Filipino, later died of COVID-19. A Polish shipmate recovered and was later flown home.

The two Regency-owned hotels are closed to the public and are being supervised by the health ministry.

The Greg Mortimer cruise liner first moored off the coast of Montevideo on March 27 before being allowed to dock in the port on April 10
The Greg Mortimer cruise liner first moored off the coast of Montevideo on March 27 before being allowed to dock in the port on April 10 AFP / Pablo PORCIUNCULA

The crew will have no contact with staff, cannot leave their rooms and will receive daily health checks.

Talvi said that none of the 36 positive cases were showing symptoms.

"Those that tested negative, since they were in a (virus) focal point, we will treat them as positives, with total isolation," said Talvi.

After their two-week quarantine, those without symptoms who also test negative will be allowed to take commercial flights to leave Uruguay.

Another 20 crew that have tested negative and are considered essential to the boat's safety have remained aboard.

Meanwhile, the boat will be "completely disinfected to eliminate the virus," said Talvi.

If those aboard continue to test negative, the boat will be allowed to leave in "two or three weeks" and head to Las Palmas in Spain.

The Greg Mortimer is owned by Australian company Aurora Expeditions.

The cruise ship had been on an expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia and Elephant Island when the tour was called off on March 20 due to the nearest South American countries -- Argentina and Chile -- closing their borders and imposing lockdowns.

The ship, with more than 200 passengers and crew aboard, eventually anchored off Montevideo on March 27 as it was the only port remaining open. However, it was not allowed to dock until April 10.