Increase in cruise ships amid COVID-19 outbreak

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on March 12, 2020

STATE authorities are yet to confirm whether passengers aboard the five cruise ships planning to head to Albany within the next two weeks will be or have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) before they are allowed to mingle in the township.

As of yesterday, there were 112 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia; four were detected in WA.

COVID-19 was first detected in mainland China in December and has since spread across 113 countries and regions within the past three months.

Across the world there have been more than 117,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 4200 deaths.

The Weekender asked the WA Department of Health on Monday whether passengers aboard Albany-bound cruise ships had been or would be tested for coronavirus before they could disembark and explore the town.

The Sun Princess was in Albany yesterday and the Costa Deliziosa, Seven Seas Mariner, Sea Princess, Seabourn Sojourn and Silver Whisper are expected in the next two weeks.

The Arcadia was in Albany last Sunday.

The Department could not meet the Weekender’s deadline yesterday with a response.

Southern Ports CEO Steve Lewis said 14 cruise ships are currently scheduled to visit Albany between now and November, but this was “subject to change”.

“The immediate port visited prior to attending Albany are all Australian ports,” he said, regarding the cruise ships.

“The Federal Government has implemented strict protocols for people travelling into Australia from high-risk areas, and these protocols also apply to cruise ship passengers.

“Since the COVID-19 outbreak there has been an increase in cruise ships visiting Albany, as ships are re-routing to avoid passages in higher-risk areas.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the activation of the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for novel coronavirus on February 27.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that COVID-19 could be the first pandemic in history to be controlled.

“The bottom line is, we are not at the mercy of this virus,” he said.

“The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals – can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.

“Among those who are infected, most will recover.”

Dr Ghebreyesus said of the 80,000 reported coronavirus cases in China, more than 70 per cent had recovered and had been discharged from hospital.

“It’s also important to remember that looking only at the total number of reported cases and the total number of countries doesn’t tell the full story,” he said.

“Of all the cases reported globally so far, 93 per cent are from just four countries.

“This is an uneven epidemic at the global level.

“For the moment, only a handful of countries have signs of sustained community transmission – most countries still have sporadic cases or defined clusters.

“As long as that’s the case, those countries have the opportunity to break the chains of transmission, prevent community transmission and reduce the burden on their health systems.”