National News

Infected ship off WA must leave: premier

Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan speaking to media ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley) NO ARCHIVING

Infected ship off WA must leave according to WA Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) (AAP Image/James Gourley)

Seven passengers aboard the Artania anchored off Perth have tested positive for coronavirus, and WA Premier Mark McGowan is adamant the federal government must manage the sick and help make the cruise ship leave.

WA health authorities boarded the vessel on Wednesday after it asked for assistance and reported about 25 passengers and crew had respiratory symptoms.

On top of the seven cases, a further two passengers are unwell and may have COVID-19, Mr McGowan said.

There are no Australians on the vessel or on the cruise ship Magnifica, which is also anchored off WA and not allowed to dock, but does not have any reported cases.

Mr McGowan said the Artania must continue on to its next port in South Africa "urgently".

"This ship needs to leave immediately," he told reporters on Thursday.

If the infected passengers had to come onshore with a life-threatening emergency, they could only go to a federal government facility such as a defence force base like Garden Island off Perth, he said.

"The ship and its passengers are a Commonwealth responsibility," Mr McGowan said.

He said the seven cases were all European, largely German, and he urged the federal government to consider arranging mercy flights with their home country.

"The main thing we want is the ship gone.

"If it requires some sort of flights out of Germany to make that happen, subject to the strictest of quarantine, well that might be a resolution."

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the seven passengers were not in a critical condition and could remain on the vessel.

Two German citizens disembarked elsewhere and later tested positive overseas, which indicated "we should treat the Artania as a ship infected with COVID-19", Mr Dawson said.

Meanwhile, the Vasco da Gama, which was scheduled to arrive in Fremantle on Friday, has been told to hold off until Monday while Rottnest Island is prepared as a 14-day quarantine zone for 200 West Australians.

As for the other 600 Australians, Mr McGowan said he was in talks with their home states about bringing them back to free up capacity on Rottnest.

"We would prefer they go home and self-isolate in their home state," he said.

All foreigners, including 109 New Zealanders, will remain aboard until they can fly home.

The state government is now urging parents to keep their children home if they can access online and other learning resources.

The WA government has already restricted access to remote Aboriginal communities but has now added further restrictions to the entire Kimberley region, the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku and parts of the Shire of East Pilbara in a bid to keep out tourists.

Those committing breaches face a fine of up to $50,000 and a jail term of five years.

WA's COVID cases total 205, with about one-quarter stemming from cruise ships.

© AAP 2020