Fears of coronavirus outbreak ‘worse than Melbourne’ as seven Filipino crewmembers on a ship anchored off the coast of Australia test positive
- Heavy ship Patricia Oldendorff moored at Port Hedland in Western Australia
- Nine crew members tested positive for the coronavirus, including another seven today
- The health minister warned that the situation must be mitigated to avoid an outbreak
Seven crew members on board a ship anchored off the northwest coast of Western Australia have tested positive for Covid-19.
The cases follow those of two men who took off from the bulk carrier on Friday, which has been anchored nine nautical miles off Port Hedland since September 16.
A total of 20 Filipino nationals and the captain were on board the Patricia Oldendorff and more are expected to test positive.
The seven new cases must remain on board because they are part of a skeleton crew of nine to keep it operational.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said on Saturday that their symptoms were minor or nonexistent and would be monitored.
Nine crew members onboard the Patricia Oldendorff tested positive with 20 crew members still on board anchored nine nautical miles off Port Hedland
However, he warned that there was a risk of a massive new outbreak if the ship were not kept under control, as the number of cases was expected to increase.
“If it enters the community, it will cause disaster worse than what we’ve seen in Melbourne,” he said.
The evacuated crew members, including the two positive cases identified Friday, are in quarantine at the Port Hedland hotel.
Mr Cook said that ‘every security measure will be taken’ so the local community need not be concerned.
“This crew does not currently require medical treatment, but should it be necessary, all precautions are in place to protect health professionals and members of the public,” he said.
Private security guards are used in the quarantine of hotels in Port Hedland, as well as in Perth, which raised concerns in light of Victoria’s private security shortcomings.
Mr Cook told reporters that there is a ‘world of difference’ between WA and Victoria.
“All our security guards are trained in infection control or they can’t be on site,” he said.
‘We have our own people in the fields who ensure that they can supervise the security guards.’
The infected crew is taken from the ship to the hospital in Port Hedland
It is expected that the two skeletal crews who tested negative for the virus could contract it in due course or have already had it, so serological testing is underway.
Arrangements are being made that a replacement skeleton crew will be available for thorough cleaning of the ship.
A responsive team is led by veteran physician Tudor Codreanu, who also managed COVID-19 outbreaks aboard the Artania cruise ship and livestock vessel Al-Kuwait earlier this year.
The ship left the Philippines on Sept. 5 with a new crew, indicating the virus was from that country, Cook said.
The seven new cases have not been attributed to the Saturday incidence of WA, but will be included in Sunday’s figures.
One case was registered in WA on Saturday – an Australian traveler in hotel quarantine.