The Western Australian government wants the Royal Australian Navy to move a cruise ship carrying at least seven COVID-19 passengers out of Australian waters.
No Australians are among the 800 passengers and 500 crew on board the Artania, currently moored off the Fremantle coast.
Mr McGowan is demanding the Artania refuel and move on to its home port in Germany, via South Africa.
“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,” Mr McGowan has said.
“There’s no Australians on board, it needs to be fuelled, but it needs to leave and go to its home port.”
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WA Health officials have said only passengers suffering life-threatening sickness will be let off the ship. Teams have been on the ship testing and assessing people.
“I am 100 per cent clear on this,” Mr McGowan told reporters today.
“No-one will be disembarking at Fremantle unless a passenger is in a life-threatening emergency.”
“I am not going to repeat the mistakes made in other jurisdictions,” he said, referencing the Ruby Princess debacle in NSW.
Mr McGowan said if the seven sick passengers had to come onshore for medical treatment, they would be kept in a Commonwealth facility, possibly a defence base.
“The Artania cruise ship must continue on its journey to South Africa urgently,” Mr McGowan declared.
“This ship needs to leave immediately. I want the Commonwealth to make that happen.”
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said there were three cruise ships and two other vessels off the coast of Fremantle.
“We are dealing with a dynamic unfolding situation,” he said.
“None of them, except for those that have no passengers and are refuelling, will enter the port, unless and until we are satisfied that it is safe for them to [dock].”
Commissioner Dawson said he had been in discussions with the chief of the Defence Force, who had “put in place planning and logistics” to assist the Western Australian government manage the cruise ship situation.
The Vasco da Gama, one of the three cruises, is a different proposition.
That cruise ship is carrying 800 Australians and 700 foreign nationals, and was due to arrive in Fremantle tomorrow morning.
But the WA government has now requested the ship now docks on Monday. No Australian passengers have reported any respiratory symptoms.
All West Australians on the ship will self-isolate for 14 days at Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth, where they will be held for a 2-week quarantine period.
“Interstate passengers will have an option,” Mr McGowan explained.
If agreed by their home State they can fly home directly or remain on the ship, self-isolating, until travel arrangements are made.
“Rottnest Island will be used as a last resort for them,” Mr McGowan said.
The remaining foreign passengers, including 109 New Zealanders, will not be allowed to leave the cruise ship until arrangements are in place for them to fly straight home.
“I know this all sounds pretty extreme but it’s the right thing to do because our first priority is the health and well-being of West Australians.”
A third ship, the Magnifica, had departed Fremantle for Dubai but the UAE has now denied the vessel permission to dock.
The Magnifica is now sitting in a holding pattern off Australia’s western coast.
WA Health officials understand that no Magnifica passengers are ill.
“We are doing what we can to assist that cruise ship to be able to get on its way to Europe or to another port,” Mr McGowan said
Earlier today NSW ordered an immediate ban on all cruise ships docking in NSW.
More than 2700 passengers walked off the Ruby Princess into Sydney one week ago, and have been responsible for a large spike in the state’s reported cases.
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