Hundreds of people stranded on a cruise ship off Perth will be evacuated to Germany within days, although seven passengers with coronavirus will likely be treated locally.
Most of the almost 832 passengers onboard the German-owned Artania will be dispatched to Frankfurt on charter flights.
“By the end of the weekend, nearly all of them will be evacuated on three planes back to Germany,” Senator Mathias Cormann told Sky News on Friday.
Seven people – five guests and two crew members – have been infected with coronavirus and have mild symptoms.
Senator Cormann indicated they would receive medical care in Australia.
“Some appropriate arrangements will be put in place locally, again, in close coordination and consultation between the federal and state governments,” he said.
The Western Australian government has been insisting the Commonwealth manage the people from the cruise ship. Premier Mark McGowan has also called on the Navy to move the Artania out of Australian waters.
One ill person, who does not have coronavirus, was taken off the liner on Thursday for medical treatment.
The hundreds of passengers who will be returned to Germany this weekend will be allowed to take only one piece of luggage, and will be accompanied by company tour guides.
The company said they would be transported to Frankfurt, but those who were not German would need confirmed onward journeys.
“In order to be able to organise this, we are in contact with the respective embassies or consulates,” it said.
The Artania was allowed to dock in Fremantle on Friday morning after a second person became unwell with an unrelated illness. No one else has disembarked from the ship.
There are no Australians on the vessel or on a second cruise ship, the Magnifica, that is anchored off Fremantle. It has no coronavirus cases among the 1700 people on board.
About 200 locals onboard the Vasco da Gama will next week go into quarantine on Rottnest Island for 14 days. About 600 other Australians will likely return to their home states.
“We would prefer they go home and self-isolate in their home state,” Mr McGowan said.
The Vasco da Gama had been due to berth on Friday, but that has been delayed until Monday.
The WA government wants all foreigners, including 108 New Zealanders, to remain on board the cruise ship until they can fly home.
But Dean Brazier, managing director of the ship’s owner Cruise and Maritime Voyages Australia, said all those on board held visas to live in either Australia or New Zealand.
He said there were no reported health issues among those on board, and they will have been at sea for 16 days by Monday