SYDNEY, Australia: A cruise ship stricken by a coronavirus outbreak was told yesterday to leave Australian waters, days after local infection numbers spiked when passengers on another vessel were allowed to disembark and roam freely around Sydney.
Seven passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 aboard the Artania, which had been due to travel onward to South Africa but is now anchored near the port of Fremantle.
Its operators say they are planning to fly the vessel’s mostly German passengers home from Australia on a chartered plane by Saturday.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said he would ask the national government to call in the navy if the ship refused to move on from Australian waters.
“This ship needs to leave immediately,” he told reporters.
“No one will be disembarking at Fremantle unless a passenger is in a life-threatening emergency,” he said.
Two other cruise ships are in nearby waters. The Magnifica, carrying around 1,700 passengers, departed Fremantle on Tuesday after being allowed to refuel but was forced to turn back when told it could not dock in Dubai.
Neither the Magnifica nor the Artania are carrying Australian travellers. But authorities are planning to allow around 800 Australian passengers aboard the Vasco de Gama to leave the vessel.
McGowan said those from Western Australia would be quarantined for 14 days on Rottnest Island, a former Aboriginal prison site and modern-day holiday destination, while other Australians would be flown to their home states.
The remaining passengers would need to wait on board until they could be flown home by their governments, he added.
More than 130 coronavirus cases have been detected among cruise ship passengers in Sydney last week, including one death.
Authorities had deemed the New Zealand-bound Ruby Princess ‘low risk’ and let passengers spill into the centre of the country’s most populous city.
Australia has recorded nearly 3,000 confirmed Covid-19 infections and 13 deaths since the pandemic began. — AFP