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Western Australian authorities are considering their options after the number of Covid-19 cases linked to a bulk carrier off Port Hedland climbed to 17. There are now a dozen crew members in quarantine at the Hedland Hotel, 10 of whom have tested positive.
Nine people remain on the Patricia Oldendorff as part of the essential crew, and seven of them have tested positive.
The ship, carrying 20 Filipino nationals and the captain, has been anchored nine nautical miles off WA’s north-west coast since 16 September.
Dean Summers from the International Transport Workers’ Federation said it was understood the virus had been picked up in Manila when the ship detoured to change over crews.
WA’s Department of Health has said all crew members are in good spirits and have been able to contact family at home.
Security personnel have been flown in to help local police oversee the hotel quarantine. WA’s health minister, Roger Cook, reassured locals and media that there was no risk to the community.
“We have the situation under firm management,” he told WA Today. “All the positive cases are well and truly locked down in that facility … No way in the world we would allow the disease to get out.”
Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region, is located near a number of remote Indigenous communities which are extremely vulnerable to the virus, as well as being a hub for mining activities which could be crippled by a Covid outbreak.
Authorities have now erected a fence around the Hedland Hotel to strengthen security.
Attention has also turned to the infected skeleton crew onboard the ship, with authorities weighing up bringing in a replacement crew so they can be brought ashore.
Cook told Nine News there was concern that those with coronavirus could fall suddenly ill.
“We obviously want to get them off as soon as possible … Although I stress that at this stage they are very, either non-symptomatic, or they are [have] very few symptoms. The situation is not ideal [because] obviously people can deteriorate quickly under Covid-19,” he said.
Maritime laws require 13 people to be onboard the vessel when it departs for international waters.
Authorities have confirmed the skeleton crew may need to remain on the ship for the duration of their quarantine periods.
The Australian Medical Association has expressed concerns about Hedland hospital’s facilities should crew members need admission.
“Maybe the government does have it under control but they need to be very open with us now,” the AMA’s state president, Andrew Miller, said on Monday after eight new cases were announced.
The two essential crew members on the ship who tested negative are awaiting serological test results to determine whether they have previously had the virus. It’s hoped they will have developed antibodies, allowing them to remain as part of the crew.
Summers said the management of this crew was a significant step up from how seafarers were treated in the early days of the pandemic in Australia and the cruise ship crisis.
“And the reason this is successful is because industry, unions and state governments are all talking to each other,” he said. “It was a very good step forward in the in Western Australia … we congratulate the state government on how they’re managing this.
“There has not been one recorded case around the world where international seafarers have transmitted Covid ashore … so the community should be perfectly at ease that this has been managed correctly.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Covid cases among crew of bulk carrier now anchored off Port Hedland climbs to 17 | Australia news