West Australian premier Mark McGowan has come out swinging, saying he will not make the same mistakes that NSW Health made with the Ruby Princess cruise ship last week.
Speaking to media on Wednesday, the state’s premier said he has a solid plan in place for when the Vasco da Gama cruise ship docks south of Perth on Friday. The ship is carrying 900 Australian and New Zealand nationals, as well as 50 other foreigners and 550 crew members.
While the ship claims to have no recorded health concerns, Mr McGowan said his state would not be taking any chances of an outbreak.
“I have been in contact with the Federal Government, as has the Police Commissioner, for immediate assistance to deal with these cruise ships,” Mr McGowan said.
“We have seen what has happened in Sydney Harbour. It was a complete and utter disaster. I will not allow that to happen in WA.
“There are no circumstances where we will allow passengers or crew to wander the streets in our state.”
The Vasco de Gama cruise ship will dock in Fremantle on Friday.
According to Mr McGowan, Australian passengers will be immediately transferred to Rottnest Island for 14 days of self-isolation.
“In the last two days, we have cleared the island of visitors and made arrangements for accommodation, catering and security,” he said.
“We are exercising the Rottnest option now for two reasons. One, to protect the safety of the Australian passengers and two, to protect the West Australian community from any possible
infection or transmission from this cruise ship.”
Mr McGowan said he isn’t interested in playing any “games” with the “evolving situation”, making a not-so-subtle jab at the “disaster” that occurred in Sydney after 2700 passengers were allowed off the Ruby Princess despite some having coronavirus symptoms on board.
To date, more than 130 people from the ship have tested positive for COVID-19, among them a woman in her 70s who died in hospital yesterday morning.
“All crew and foreign nationals will remain on the ship until arrangements are made to fly them directly out of the country,” he explained.
“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.
“This is an evolving situation and it is rapidly changing,” he said.
“I know there is a blame game going on in New South Wales at the moment. I am not interested in playing those games. I want to co-operate with the Commonwealth and sort these issues now to avoid the Ruby Princess disaster happening here in our State.”
Earlier today, Commissioner of the Australian Border Force Michael Outram pointed the finger at exactly who is responsible for allowing nearly 2700 passengers to disembark the infected cruise ship last week.
During a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday, Mr Outram said NSW Health was responsible for allowing passengers to leave the ship on Thursday March 19, 2020, after they were informed some passengers were unwell 24 hours prior to disembarkation.
“New South Wales Health was advised that passengers were isolated with flu-like symptoms,” he said to media.
“On March 18, the Department of Agriculture informed through Ruby Princess that a risk assessment had been conducted, and that it was low risk.
“They [NSW Health] had given clearance for all passengers to disembark the vessel. That red light has just gone green.”
Mr Outram said because the health department deemed the ship as “low-risk” it was allowed to dock into Sydney’s Circular Quay on March 19.
“As a result of that information, all of the passengers were given a green light to disembark.”
His comments follow NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant, who insinuated that the cruise line was in fact at fault, saying one of the ship’s crew members most likely spread the virus to the passengers.