News State Western Australia News WA seeks federal help with virus outbreak among ship’s crew

WA seeks federal help with virus outbreak among ship’s crew

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The Vega Dream is anchored several miles of Port Hedland. Seven of its crew has the coronavirus. Photo: Vessel Finder
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Western Australia’s Health Minister is urging the Commonwealth to take action on maritime crew arrangements after a second COVID-19 outbreak off the coast of Port Hedland.

Seven of the 20 crew from the Vega Dream iron ore bulk carrier, which arrived from the Philippines, have now tested positive.

The vessel left the Port Hedland terminal on Sunday and is anchored 22 nautical miles off the coast and under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction.

It is the second time in a fortnight that a ship has arrived from Manila with COVID-positive crew. There was also an outbreak on the now-departed Patricia Oldendorff bulk carrier.

Health Minister Roger Cook has urged the federal government to ensure Philippines authorities strengthen their maritime crew arrangements.

“These poor crew are having to join these vessels under very arduous circumstances and conditions anyway,” Mr Cook said on Tuesday.

“The fact that they are put on the vessel in a manner that potentially gives them the coronavirus is really of great concern and the Commonwealth should be reaching out to the Philippine government to say ‘get your house in order’.”

All but one of the infected crew remain aboard. They are isolating in separate quarters with en suites and are in good spirits, Mr Cook said.

A man who was removed from the ship on Saturday and taken to Hedland Hospital’s isolation ward after becoming symptomatic will be transferred on Tuesday by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to a quarantine hotel in Perth.

The sick crew will either remain isolated aboard while the ship sets sail or they will be removed and placed into hotel quarantine in WA.

Mr Cook said it was up to the Commonwealth to determine the next steps.

“We’re not trying to wash our hands off this, we’re simply saying it’s beyond our legal jurisdiction,” he said.

“We’ll provide whatever assistance we can.”

He said the major mining companies that operate in WA were working to strengthen crew arrangements.

“I’ve got nothing against Manila-based crews, I just want Western Australians to be protected from COVID-19,” Mr Cook said.

A marine pilot and a cargo surveyor had boarded the vessel at Port Hedland but both were wearing personal protective equipment and weren’t in close contact with infectious crew.

WA’s case tally will be updated later on Tuesday.