Western Australia will become “an island within an island” when its hard border closure begins at the weekend, but the Artania cruise ship is unlikely to depart until at least next week as a dozen crew await coronavirus test results.
Eight new cases were confirmed overnight, taking the state’s total to 400, including 15 in intensive care.
Premier Mark McGowan says while the numbers continue to be very encouraging, WA cannot take its foot off the pedal.
“Our isolation is now our best defence. We need to use it to the best of our advantage,” he said on Thursday.
A temporary hard border closure will come into effect from midnight on Sunday, which could leave some locals stranded interstate if they do not make it home in time.
“Some might think it’s over the top and unnecessary. I can assure them that it’s not,” Mr McGowan said.
There will be exemptions for health workers, emergency services, freight workers, people providing specialist skills, judicial services and on compassionate grounds.
FIFO workers and their families will also be exempt but must adhere to a 14-day isolation period upon entering WA.
Mr McGowan said a recent spike in coronavirus cases in the Kimberley region was also a grave concern.
Twelve people, including healthcare workers, have been diagnosed and are self-isolating, but a significant portion of the population in the region is indigenous, who are more vulnerable to the virus.
Meanwhile, the Artania remains docked in Fremantle with 464 crew on board.
Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram says 12 crew have been tested for COVID-19 and are isolating on the ship, along with other crew who have had contact with them.
A wider outbreak on the vessel could lead to dozens, if not hundreds, of people requiring medical treatment in WA.
But the ABF will not force the ship to depart if it puts lives at risk, and will first look to arrange flights for about 357 non-essential crew from the Philippines and Indonesia.
“The crew can be appropriately quarantined on the vessel. We don’t need to bring them all off, there’s a lot of room on that vessel,” Mr Outram told 6PR radio on Thursday.
“The best-case scenario here is that we manage over the next few days, with the crew on board, to get the situation contained and get the vessel under way.”
Mr Outram said there were 12 to 15 crew who were vital to the ship’s operations and they were separated from the rest of the crew.
About 850 passengers flew back to Europe on Sunday.
Another 12 people unfit to fly were transported to a hotel on Wednesday, where they will be quarantined.
Dozens of passengers and crew who tested positive are in hospital.
Mr Outram said the ship was unlikely to leave this week.
“The body language that I’m reading from the operators of this ship and the people on board isn’t one of resistance … they’re actually asking for our help,” he said.