Coronavirus detected in two crew members on bulk carrier off WA coast

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Three new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Western Australia, including two men on a bulk carrier off the coast.

Health Minister Roger Cook said all three cases were associated with overseas travel.

“The confirmed cases are males aged between 34 and 51,” he said.

“One is a returned traveller from the UK and two are crew from a bulk carrier anchored nine nautical miles off Port Hedland.”

Mr Cook said the bulk carrier Patricia Oldendorff from Manila anchored off Port Hedland in WA’s North West on September 16.

“It was scheduled to berth earlier this week, with a crew of 20 Filipino nationals on board, plus the vessel’s master,” Mr Cook said.

“We were informed by the vessel that two crew members were showing flu-like symptoms.”

Mr Cook said two nurses boarded the vessel by helicopter to test the crew members.

“The nurses wore full PPE [personal protective equipment] and the flight crew took the necessary precautions,” Mr Cook said.

“This afternoon it has been confirmed the two crew members are positive to COVID-19.”

‘The situation is well and truly in hand’

Mr Cook said the two men remain on board in isolation.

He said said a rapid-response team of clinical and logistical staff would be sent to Port Hedland on Friday morning to assess the remaining crew.

“This situation is well and truly in hand, any positive personnel have been isolated and they’ll continue to be isolated,” Mr Cook said.

A doctor with gloves and PPE gear carries a coronavirus test.
A team which includes medical staff is being sent to investigate the situation.(Reuters: Lindsey Wasson)

“So the evolving situation is being handled appropriately, and as always, the safety of Western Australians will be our highest priority in dealing with these cases.”

The remaining crew members are not believed to be showing COVID-19 symptoms, but health authorities are bracing for the possibility of further cases.

Mr Cook said bringing the patients, and possibly the rest of the crew, off the ship is an option being considered.

“If that is the case, we will obviously undertake that quarantining in an appropriate hotel facility in Hedland,” Mr Cook said.

The two men who tested positive are showing some symptoms but do not require hospitalisation at this stage.

The latest cases bring to nine the number of active cases in WA, and the number of total cases to 668.

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