Coronavirus: Crew on Key Integrity in Geraldton and Al Messilah ships in Fremantle infected with COVID-19

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Peter LawThe West Australian
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WA Health Minister Roger Cook. Inset: Cargo ship Key Integrity.
Camera IconWA Health Minister Roger Cook. Inset: Cargo ship Key Integrity.

Crew from two ships berthed at Geraldton and Fremantle have tested positive for COVID-19, Health Minister Roger Cook has announced.

A crew member on the bulk carrier Key Integrity, which berthed at Geraldton Port this morning, was swabbed by a local nurse after previously displaying coronavirus-like symptoms.

The test was fast-tracked by the laboratory and came back positive. The infected crew member is now symptom-free and isolating in a cabin on the vessel.

Mr Cook said only the nurse and pilot boarded the ship and both wore full personal protective equipment.

“There is no risk to the Geraldton community,” he said.

The Key Integrity, which has about 20 crew aboard, sailed from Manila on October 6. Before it departed, 13 new crew boarded the vessel and all were tested for the virus.

In a separate maritime outbreak announced on Saturday, a crew member from the Al Messilah livestock ship docked at Fremantle Port also tested positive.

On Friday, the crew member needed medical treatment for a non-COVID related condition and was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital in a chartered bus.

He was tested at the hospital for coronavirus as a precaution and then transferred to hotel quarantine. PPE was used by hospital staff and during transportation.

Today, the test returned positive and an outbreak has been declared on the Al Messilah, which has 52 crew from various nationalities onboard.

This is obviously a very deeply concerning pattern.

“An added complexity with this situation is that crew from three other vessels also requiring medical treatment, were transported in the same charter bus to hospital,” Mr Cook said.

“While all wore PPE, and the risk to them is low, public health is interviewing these crew as a precaution given there was some interaction with a confirmed case.

“There remains no risk to members of the public or to hospital staff.”

The pilot who boarded the Al Messilah is isolating at home and health authorities are investigating if any other inspection crew also boarded the vessel.

Four ships infected with COVID-19 have now arrived in WA ports in the past three weeks. These latest outbreaks come after crew from two other vessels — the Patricia Oldendorff and Vega Dream — arrived in Port Hedland from Manila.

“This is obviously a very deeply concerning pattern,” Mr Cook said.

“Fortunately, our WA health teams are very good at dealing with these situations, but it will continue to happen unless something is done to ensure crew do not get on the ships carrying the virus.

“Dealing with this is out of the control of the WA Government. This is where the Federal Government must get involved to do what it can to help these situations and stop occurring in the future.”

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