Thousands of Australians stranded on cruise ships with nowhere to dock

Elias Hubbard
March 26, 2020

The holiday island of Rottnest has been emptied to create a quarantine centre for Australian cruise passengers.

Two vessels carrying worldwide passengers have been denied access to berth at a local port, and are now stationed off the coast of WA.

Meanwhile, the Magnifica departed Fremantle on Tuesday after all passengers and crew were kept onboard during refuelling but was told overnight it could not dock in Dubai, so headed back. That ship is now anchored off the WA coast, attempting to find a port. "There are no circumstances where we will allow passengers or crew to wander the streets in our state".

Both the Magnifica and Artania must remain at anchor off the coast, and nobody will be allowed to disembark unless they have a life-threatening emergency.

The Premier for WA Mark McGowan admitted that the idea of quarantine with quokkas might have first sounded "ridiculous", however he was "pleased we made that decision a couple of days ago, because we now need it".

No passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 and there are no reports of illness on board.

"I'm not going to take any chances on this issue", Mr McGowan told reporters on Wednesday.

Mr Cook announced police would be included with health workers in the COVID-19 testing regime. In WA, there are now 2,700 people on two cruise ships off the coast, forcing the state government to turn Rottnest Island, which is usually a tourist haven, into a quarantine zone.

The MV Artania is believed to be carrying more than 800 passengers and 500 crew, with no Australians on board. "One, to protect the safety of the Australian passengers; and two, to protect the West Australian community from any possible infection transmission from this cruise ship". About 109 passengers are from New Zealand and 33 from the United Kingdom.

He said: "All crew and foreign nationals will remain on the ship until arrangements are made to fly them directly out of the country".

"They will not be allowed to disembark at any time unless it is to travel under strict supervision directly to the airport, or they need urgent medical attention to survive", McGowan said.

The WA Government has said it is in consultation with New Zealand to arrange a repatriation flight as soon as possible.

The WA government said it is urgently calling on the Commonwealth for support in responding to the vessels. "It was a complete and utter disaster", the premier said.

The number of coronavirus cases in the state has surged by 30, bringing the total to 205, including five from cruise ships and eight in regional WA. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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