25/03/2020 - 16:16

COVID-19 daily wrap: Rottnest to quarantine ship passengers

25/03/2020 - 16:16

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800 cruise ship passengers to be quarantined at Rottnest. WA's COVID-19 cases rise by 30 to 205. Premier Mark McGowan introduces alcohol sale restrictions. Australia's COVID-19 cases rise by 287 to 2,423.

Mark McGowan says one in four confirmed COVID-19 cases in WA are linked to cruise ships.

Rottnest Island will be used to quarantine 800 Australian passengers aboard the Vasco da Gama cruise ship, due to dock at Fremantle on Friday; the passengers will be required to self-isolate on the island for 14 days.

Premier Mark McGowan announced the decision this morning, citing one in four confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state were linked to cruise ships.

Two other cruise ships – the Magnifica and the Artania – will be required to remain at anchor instead of coming to Fremantle harbour, Mr McGowan said.

“We have seen what has happened in Sydney Harbour. It was a complete and utter disaster,” the premier told reporters this morning.

“I will not allow that to happen in Western Australia.

“There are no circumstances where we will allow passengers or crew to wander the streets in our state.”

His announcement comes as WA’s confirmed COVID-19 cases grew by 30 infections overnight to 205.

Health Minister Roger Cook said five of the new cases came from cruise ships.

“What is so concerning is that an increasing number of confirmed cases in WA can be traced back to cruise ships,” Mr McGowan said.

“I’m not going to take any chances on this issue. My number one priority is protecting our citizens here in our state.”

The Vasco da Gama is carrying 950 passengers and 550 crew members.

Mr McGowan said they will not be allowed to disembark the ship unless passengers are in a life-threatening situation.

There are 800 Australians on board, including 200 Western Australians.

All Australians will be immediately transferred to Rottnest Island for 14 days of self-isolation, Mr McGowan said.

“In the last two days, we have cleared the island of visitors and made arrangements for accommodation, catering and security,” he said.

The international passengers, including 109 from New Zealand and 33 from the UK, will be required to remain on the ship until arrangements can be made to fly them directly out of the country.

At the same time, Mr McGowan announced temporary restrictions on takeaway alcohol, which came into effect at 10am.

The restrictions will be implemented for a minimum of two weeks and can be reviewed or altered at any time, the premier said.

“These restrictions are not intended to stop people from having a responsible drink,” Mr McGowan said.

“Right now I don’t want alcohol-related problems to be stretching our police force and putting more pressure on our hospital system.”

Mr McGowan also said hotels and caravan parks were among places exempt from Australia’s stage 2 coronavirus-related restrictions, announced yesterday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The restrictions will come into force in WA at midnight. Click through to see the list of which WA businesses will be shut.

Mr McGowan says the restrictions are to ramp up social distancing across the country.

“These additional restrictions make sure we stop the spread as best we can and limit the pressure on our hospitals in this pandemic period,” he said.

“If we abide by the new laws and the new guidelines, Western Australia is in a position to minimise the impact of the virus and protect our citizens.

“A majority of you are doing the right thing – please continue to do so.”

Mr McGowan said the restrictions were unfortunate for many businesspeople and employees, but were essential.

“I’m very sorry that we’ve had to do this, but the restrictions are necessary because they’ve been put in place to save many lives,” he said.

Hotels, hostels, Airbnbs, campsites and caravan parks are permitted to stay open.

“We’ve taken this approach because we believe it’s important that everyone has a place to stay during these extraordinary times,” Mr McGowan said.

“This might be just to get through this period, or it might be to allow people to self-isolate who can’t do it any other way.”

Today’s announcements come as the prime minister appointed former Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Nev Power to lead a newly announced National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

There are currently 2,423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, as at 3pm AEDT, with 287 new infections today.

Eight people have died from the virus, including one Western Australian.

NSW is the worst-affected state by the virus, currently with 1,029 confirmed cases and seven of the eight deaths.

Globally, there are nearly 424,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and there have been nearly 19,000 deaths.

Italy is the worst-affected nation, with more than 69,000 confirmed infections and 6,820 deaths.

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