Seven passengers on the Artania cruise ship, currently moored off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia, have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The WA Government will not let the ship dock
- But it may allow the sick to be isolated in a Commonwealth facility
- The Premier has asked for help from the navy to get the ship to leave
WA Premier Mark McGowan has called on the Australian Navy to help get the ship, which has no Australians among its 800 passengers and 500 crew on board, to leave Australian waters.
WA authorities have said only people with a life-threatening medical situation would be allowed entry into the state.
WA Health officials were on board the ship yesterday testing and assessing people.
The WA Government has requested Commonwealth help and said if any passengers required medical attention on shore, that should take place in a defence facility away from the public.
“We’d like the Commonwealth to assist with that, we’d like those passengers … if they have to, to go into a Commonwealth facility,” Mr McGowan said.
He said they needed to work out a way to refuel the Artania and called on the Commonwealth to use its assets, including the Australian Navy, to assist.
“The Commonwealth has assets here, it has defence assets, it has the navy, we’d like their assistance to try to get the Artania to leave as soon as possible,” he said.
“There’s no Australians on board, it needs to be fuelled, but it needs to leave and go to its home port.
“Its home port is actually Germany, so what we’re saying to the ship is ‘you need to leave’, and we’re saying to the Commonwealth ‘you need to help us get that ship to leave’.
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Mr McGowan said he had been in contact with Australia’s Border Force last night to work out an arrangement.
The Australian Defence Force has a maritime facility at Garden Island, just south of Perth.
No repeat of Ruby Princess episode
Mr McGowan said he did not want a repeat of the Ruby Princess fiasco in Sydney, where some of the thousands of passengers allowed to disembark later tested positive to COVID-19.
“[The Ruby Princess] in Sydney has obviously distressed and caused a lot of concern about the safety of these cruise ships,” Mr McGowan told Channel 7’s Sunrise.
“So we’re taking a precautionary approach to ensure that we protect our citizens.”
There are two ships currently off the coast of WA — the Artania and the Magnifica, while another, the Vasco da Gama, is due to dock on Friday.
The Magnifica and the Artania do not have any Australian passengers on board.
But the Vasco da Gama has 800 — including 200 West Australians. Its home port is Fremantle.
Rottnest Island standing by for influx
The WA Government will allow the Vasco da Gama to dock on Friday but only the Australian passengers will be allowed to disembark immediately.
The plan is to ferry them to the former holiday destination of Rottnest Island — which has been repurposed by the State Government as a COVID-19 quarantine camp — where they will self isolate for 14 days.
International passengers aboard the Vasco da Gama will only be allowed to disembark if they are going straight to an airport to fly home, or they require urgent medical attention, the WA Government said yesterday.
WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia told ABC Radio Perth he was ensuring people disembarking from the Vasco da Gama would be put directly into quarantine.
“No-one is getting off any cruise ship unless they’ve done 14 days’ isolation,” Mr Papalia said.
“The people coming off this ship will remain on board, they will either go to Rottnest or if they are international and we’re able to get them directly to the airport and onto a flight, then they will do that.
“If they’re interstate, at this stage they’ll be doing isolation before they depart Western Australia.
“If the other states agree to take them, to the place they come from then again, they’ll go straight to the airport onto a plane and depart.”
Mr Papalia said the island was fully equipped to accommodate hundreds of people.
“We’ve got a plan, we can do it, there’s sufficient accommodation, we’ve cleared the island, we’ve got the island authority fully capable of supporting this task,” he said.
“We’ve got the capacity to Medevac people via aircraft if we need to from the island straight to a hospital.
“At the moment, there are a couple of nurses, but if this goes ahead and all of the people are on the island then obviously the health department will respond accordingly.”
Other states are grappling with the same problem, as thousands of passengers aboard cruise ships are stranded out at sea.
The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said today she was in conversation with the Commonwealth to develop guidelines on how to deal with these ships.