Po­lice to keep ships at bay


Four­teen cruise ships were be­ing held off Aus­tralian ports on Thurs­day night af­ter an­other Aus­tralian pas­sen­ger died from coro­n­avirus con­tracted on a cruise.

The West Aus­tralian and NSW gov­ern­ments have each handed the con­trol of cruise ships to their re­spec­tive po­lice com­mis­sion­ers, giv­ing po­lice the job of block­ing cruise ships from dock­ing. Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian said na­tional pro­to­cols must be put in place be­fore any pas­sen­gers could land.

Heav­ily armed po­lice were at Fremantle port south of Perth on Thurs­day af­ter West Aus­tralian Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Chris Daw­son used his state of emer­gency pow­ers to ban pas­sen­gers from the coro­n­avirus-in­fected Ger­man cruise ship Ar­ta­nia. It re­mained an­chored about 1km offshore with seven con­firmed COVID-19 cases on board.

Po­lice have pa­trolled the area in boats since Wed­nes­day when Pre­mier Mark McGowan sent a med­i­cal team to the Ar­ta­nia to carry out COVID-19 tests on pas­sen­gers who were sick. He vowed no pas­sen­ger would be al­lowed on­shore ex­cept in the case of a lifethreat­en­ing emer­gency.

Mr McGowan said on Thurs­day that he wanted the Ar­ta­nia to set sail for South Africa im­me­di­ately with the coro­n­avirus-in­fected pas­sen­gers on board. Al­ter­na­tively, he said, the Aus­tralian govern­ment could make ar­range­ments for Germany to send planes to col­lect the pas­sen­gers un­der “strictest” quar­an­tine cri­te­ria.

There are no Aus­tralians on the Ar­ta­nia.

In NSW, 11 cruise ships re­mained off the coast af­ter an edict from Ms Bere­jik­lian that no pas­sen­gers be al­lowed to dis­em­bark. The or­der was made on Wed­nes­day af­ter days of bad head­lines over the Ruby Princess cruise ship, whose 2700 pas­sen­gers were per­mit­ted to walk off the ship be­fore COVID-19 test­ing could be com­pleted.

The ship is now ly­ing off the coast be­tween Syd­ney and Wol­lon­gong along with sev­eral other ves­sels, in­clud­ing the Car­ni­val Spirit, Voy­ager of the Seas, Celebrity Sol­stice, Ova­tion of the Seas and the Car­ni­val Splen­dour.

NSW Health re­leased fig­ures re­veal­ing a fur­ther in­crease in the num­ber of COVID-19 cases orig

inat­ing from the Ruby Princess and Ova­tion of the Seas — 121 cases and 31 cases in NSW, re­spec­tively. On Wed­nes­day night a sec­ond Ruby Princess pas­sen­ger, a 67-year-old male, died in Queens­land; the first was a 77-year-old woman who was taken away from the ship on ar­rival in an am­bu­lance.

The most re­cent coro­n­avirus death in Aus­tralia was an­nounced by West Aus­tralian Health Min­is­ter Roger Cook on Thurs­day, bring­ing the num­ber of deaths in Aus­tralia to 13.

The man in his 70s had re­cently dis­em­barked from a pas­sen­ger cruise and flown home to Perth from the east coast. He ar­rived in the emer­gency department of Joon­dalup Health Cam­pus in Perth’s north, fainted and later died.

In Western Aus­tralia, 51 of the state’s 231 COVID-19 cases were in­fected on a cruise in­clud­ing 78year-old James Kwan, who died on March 1 af­ter hol­i­day­ing on the Di­a­mond Princess. At least an­other four West Aus­tralians have been in­fected by cruise ship pas­sen­gers, but au­thor­i­ties ex­pect that fig­ure to rise ex­po­nen­tially as they trace pas­sen­gers’ close con­tacts.

In Tas­ma­nia, two chil­dren were among five new cases of coro­n­avirus con­firmed on Thurs­day night. They were all pas­sen­gers on the same cruise ship and brought that state’s to­tal num­ber of cases to 47.

Ms Bere­jik­lian granted de­ci­sion-mak­ing power to al­low cruise ship pas­sen­gers on to land to her Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, Michael Fuller, who said he would not do so un­less it was “crys­tal clear that they are clear of the virus”.

Mr McGowan has now asked the fed­eral govern­ment to deal di­rectly with the Ger­man govern­ment to en­sure the ship leaves.

“They have travel plans that they should ad­here to and we would like the com­mon­wealth to en­sure that hap­pens,” he said.

“This ship needs to leave im­me­di­ately … the sooner that ship gets home, the bet­ter it will be.”

Mr McGowan was mak­ing no ex­cep­tions for Aus­tralians ei­ther.

On Mon­day, about 200 West Aus­tralians on board the cruise ship Vasco da Gama are due to be taken by ferry from Fremantle to Rot­tnest Is­land for two weeks of quar­an­tine.

A fur­ther 600 Aus­tralians were due to be held on the ship un­til their re­spec­tive state gov­ern­ments could make ar­range­ments to fly them home.

There was spec­u­la­tion on Thurs­day about whether the pas­sen­gers on the Ar­ta­nia con­tracted coro­n­avirus dur­ing a six-day stopover in Syd­ney from March 12 to 17, or whether they were in­fected ear­lier and may have spread the dis­ease while on day trips in the NSW cap­i­tal.

A spokesman for the ship’s own­ers said 613 Ar­ta­nia pas­sen­gers dis­em­barked on March 16 — when the ship is listed to have been docked in Syd­ney — and flew home. So far one of those pas­sen­gers, a for­eign na­tional, has tested pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus af­ter re­turn­ing to Germany.

“Western Aus­tralia’s po­si­tion is this: if the seven pas­sen­gers need to come on­shore for med­i­cal treat­ment they will have to go to a com­mon­wealth fa­cil­ity such as a de­fence force base,” Mr McGowan said.

“If this oc­curred then Germany and the Aus­tralian govern­ment can or­gan­ise a plane to come and pick those pas­sen­gers up and take them home.”

Late on Thurs­day, po­lice col­lected an el­derly man with re­nal fail­ure from the Ar­ta­nia and he was de­liv­ered to a Perth hospi­tal.

The Aus­tralian has been told his evac­u­a­tion from the ship was con­sid­ered an emer­gency. While he was not be­lieved to have COVID-19, med­i­cal staff at the hospi­tal as­sumed that he might as they treated him for ad­vanced kid­ney dis­ease.

Ms Bere­jik­lian on Tuesday lay the blame for the Ruby Princess in­ci­dent with Aus­tralian Bor­der Force of­fi­cials dur­ing a par­ty­room meet­ing, and poured scorn on the agency for al­low­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple to stream through air­ports without ad­e­quate screen­ing.

‘This ship needs to leave im­me­di­ately ... the sooner (it) gets home, the bet­ter it will be’



NSW po­lice pa­trol the White Bay Cruise ter­mi­nal in Syd­ney’s in­ner west

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