State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments in ugly spat over how to send home for­eign cruise ship pas­sen­gers docked off the WA coast


Coro­n­avirus-stricken pas­sen­gers on cruise ships off Perth could be treated at a De­fence base while healthy trav­ellers are sent home un­der a mercy flight deal be­tween Aus­tralia and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

But as it emerged seven pas­sen­gers had COVID-19, a spat was brew­ing be­tween the State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments over the plans.

Two Ar­ta­nia pas­sen­gers were evac­u­ated yes­ter­day af­ter a non-virus emer­gency.

A multi-coun­try mercy flight deal is be­ing ne­go­ti­ated by For­eign Min­is­ter Marise Payne as a way to solve the COVID-19 cruise ship cri­sis off the WA coast.

Perth’s hos­pi­tals re­main on alert that cru­cial re­sources may need to be re­de­ployed to treat pas­sen­gers from the coro­n­avirus-in­fected Ar­ta­nia, which was last night al­lowed to tem­po­rar­ily berth at Fremantle port due to an un­re­lated pas­sen­ger ill­ness.

And as a blame game erupted be­tween the State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments over two ships filled with for­eign­ers and what to do with them, a third ves­sel — the Vasco da Gama — was due to ar­rive off the Perth coast to­day, though the pas­sen­gers were not set to dis­em­bark un­til Mon­day.

The Fed­eral Govern­ment was last night push­ing for a global deal en­sur­ing sick peo­ple on the Ar­ta­nia are flown home in re­turn for mercy flights that would se­cure the safety of Aussies on cruise ships abroad.

The West Aus­tralian can con­firm Qatar Air­ways is keep­ing most of its net­work in­tact — in­clud­ing to Aus­tralia — to give more than 35,000 stranded Aussies a path­way to re­turn home de­spite wide­spread lock­downs. The Ar­ta­nia is moored off Fremantle, with 1300 for­eign na­tion­als — 800 mostly Ger­man pas­sen­gers and 500 crew — aboard, in­clud­ing 25 with res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses and seven con­firmed cases of COVID-19. Yes­ter­day the WA Govern­ment was push­ing for the seven in­fected pas­sen­gers to be taken to HMAS Stir­ling navy base at Gar­den Is­land, off Rock­ing­ham, to self-iso­late for 14 days. How­ever, the Fed­eral Govern­ment was adamant that could set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent and main­tained no for­mal re­quest for help had been made to De­fence by the McGowan Govern­ment.

None of the seven coro­n­avirus cases were yes­ter­day se­ri­ously ill and it was hoped re­mov­ing them from the ship would help re­duce the risk of the virus spread­ing to other pas­sen­gers.

Pre­mier Mark McGowan was locked in dis­cus­sions with De­fence Min­ster Linda Reynolds, Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Dutton and Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son about the is­sue, des­per­ate to avoid a re­peat of the cruise ship de­ba­cle in New South Wales where po­ten­tially in­fected pas­sen­gers walked freely around the com­mu­nity.

The West Aus­tralian con­firmed Mr McGowan, pic­tured left, spoke to Ger­man am­bas­sador Thomas Fitschen about whether the Ger­man Govern­ment could swiftly ar­range a “mercy flight” to Perth to col­lect the healthy pas­sen­gers. All 800 would re­main on the Ar­ta­nia un­til emer­gency trans­porta­tion was or­gan­ised for them.

The pas­sen­gers were show­ing signs of frus­tra­tion yes­ter­day with limbo sta­tus clearly wear­ing on them as they find them­selves caught in the cen­tre of a diplo­matic stoush.

Yelling at me­dia and giv­ing

cam­eras the finger, pic­tured far left, Ar­ta­nia pas­sen­gers’ warm wel­comes on Wed­nes­day had quickly turned to anger. But they ap­peared to be fol­low­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing more than the day be­fore, though there very few of them were wear­ing face masks, pic­tured far left.

Also yes­ter­day, a WA Po­lice ves­sel trans­ported an el­derly pas­sen­ger who suf­fered a lifethreat­en­ing med­i­cal emer­gency from the Ar­ta­nia to Rous Head

in Fremantle, pic­tured above. He ap­peared frail as he was as­sisted to a wait­ing St John Am­bu­lance by at least three po­lice of­fi­cers, all wear­ing pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, face masks and gloves.

The con­di­tion of the pa­tient, who was last night in a sta­ble con­di­tion, was not re­lated to COVID-19 and Health Min­is­ter Roger Cook said the man would be treated in a neg­a­tive pres­sure room at Fiona Stan­ley Hospi­tal.

The Health Department said

there was a sec­ond med­i­cal emer­gency aboard the Ar­ta­nia yes­ter­day. It is be­lieved a pas­sen­ger suf­fered a sus­pected heart at­tack. This is the in­ci­dent that forced the State Govern­ment to al­low the ship to berth.

The Govern­ment said ev­ery­one else had to “re­main on board in self-iso­la­tion”.

Mean­while, more than 1700 for­eign­ers aboard the Mag­nifica are “do­ing loops” off the WA coast af­ter be­ing re­fused en­try into Dubai af­ter re­fu­elling ear­lier in the week. The ves­sel had re­ported 298 cases of ill­ness on the ship to the Fed­eral Govern­ment, but later said no pas­sen­gers were ill.

The Pre­mier has made it clear no pas­sen­gers from the ships willbe al­lowed onto WA soil, un­less they need life-sav­ing med­i­cal treat­ment amid fears the State’s hos­pi­tals could be over­run. “I am 100 per cent clear on this — no one will be dis­em­bark­ing at Fremantle, un­less a pas­sen­ger is in a life-threat­en­ing emer­gency,” he said.

The State Govern­ment sug­gested the Ar­ta­nia’s pas­sen­gers be taken to Christ­mas Is­land or to RAAF Base Lear­month near Ex­mouth, but both pro­pos­als were re­jected. “The ship is an in­ter­na­tional cruise ship. It only has for­eign cit­i­zens on board. (The Com­mon­wealth) need to work out what to do, in con­junc­tion ... with the Ger­man Govern­ment,” Mr McGowan said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.