Australia

WA cruise ship standoff continues as passengers test positive for COVID-19

Cruise ships are seen off the shore of Fremantle this week. Source: AAP

The fate of three cruise ships off WA remains uncertain.

The WA Government is urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Department of Home Affairs to take responsibility for a cruise ship anchored off the state's coast, after seven of its passengers tested positive to COVID-19 overnight.

WA health officials boarded the MV Artania cruise ship late Wednesday, to conduct health assessments on passengers that had reported symptoms of respiratory illness.

Ten of the ship's passengers and crew were tested for COVID-19, with six passengers and one crew member testing positive.

"Two other passengers tested negative. However, they are unwell and there are concerns from WA health that they may be positive. No Australians are on board this ship," WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan speaking to media.
Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan speaking to media.
AAP

Despite the diagnoses, there were no plans for any of the passengers to disembark the ship.

"The WA Chief health Officer, based on a briefing by WA clinicians, has advised [these passengers] can remain on the vessel, even though they've tested positive,” WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.

"We are dealing with it with the best advice we can get from the health clinicians. The advice we received this morning is that no passengers need to be disembarked for medical care."

The Artania has 800 mostly German passengers on board, in addition to 500 crew.

The WA Premier made clear his view that the ship and its passengers are a Commonwealth responsibility.

"If seven passengers need to come ashore they will have to go to Commonwealth facility, a defence force base. The Australian and German governments would need to arrange planes to pick them up from there," he said.

"I have been in contact with the Federal Government to make clear our position. This ship needs to leave immediately."

SBS News has contacted the Minister for Home Affairs and the German Embassy in Canberra for comment.

A closed food court.
A closed food court.
AAP

A second cruise ship, the MSC Magnifica, has been anchored off Western Australia's coast for 24 hours, after being denied entry to Dubai.

"We are doing what we can to assist that cruise ship to get on to Europe or another port," Mr McGowan said.

A third cruise liner, the Vasco Da Gama, has been told to delay its arrival in Western Australia until Monday.

When it arrives, Western Australians on board will be brought to Rottnest Island for quarantine.

"Last night, we directed the master of the ship to delay its arrival until Monday. We did this to allow more time to arrange the logistics of the Rottnest Island operation," Mr McGowan said.

WA Minister for Tourism Paul Papalia, WA Police, WA Health and the Fremantle Port Authority were at Fremantle Port on Thursday making those arrangements.

However, Mr McGowan said this option would be exercised only for Western Australians.

"We are also in urgent talks with the other Australian states to see if they would agree to accept their citizens from the Vasco Da Gama via a direct flight," he said.

"The reality is, I want to make sure Rottnest Island has capacity into the future, if we need to use it for other Western Australians or other emergencies."

All international guests will be required to remain on the ship, until arrangements have been made to fly them directly out of the country.

"No one will be disembarking in Fremantle unless it's a life or death emergency," Mr McGowan said.

"I'm not going to repeat the mistakes made in other jurisdictions."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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