Mon, November 29, 2021


Australian tourist island becomes quarantine zone

Tourist haven Rottnest Island, off the west Australian coast, will be turned into a quarantine zone for Australian cruise-ship passengers amid the escalating coronavirus epidemic.

The island off Western Australia state, made famous by a nocturnal marsupial called a Quokka, will house some 800 Australians from the Vasco da Gama for a mandatory 14-day isolation when it arrives on Friday, state Premier Mark McGowan said. All foreign nationals and crew will remain onboard until arrangements can be made to fly them out of the country, he told reporters Wednesday.

Two other ships, the MSC Magnifica and MV Artania, are currently at anchor off Fremantle and passengers will not be allowed to disembark unless for life threatening medical emergencies, McGowan said. The Magnifica returned to Fremantle after Dubai denied it entry, while the Artania, which was allowed to arrive to refuel, has 25 passengers and crew reporting respiratory illnesses, he said.

Passengers are being stranded on boats sailing around the world with more nations refusing to allow them to dock as an increasing number of confirmed cases can be traced back to cruise ships.

McGowan fears a rapid spread of the coronavirus after authorities in Sydney allowed passengers to leave the Ruby Princess while tests were being conducted among a group of people that reported flu-like symptoms on board. Since then, infections from the boat have reached 133, while more than 20 cases can be linked to two other ships that also docked in Sydney. The boats account for about a quarter of Western Australia's infections, McGowan said.

"I will not allow what has happened in Sydney to happen here in Western Australia," he said. "We're exercising the Rottnest Island option now to protect the safety of Australian passengers and to protect the west Australian community from any possible transmission from this cruise ship."

Authorities on Rottnest Island have been clearing the island of visitors for the past two days. All overnight visits, day trips and visits by private and commercial vessels have been banned indefinitely, according to the Rottnest Island Authority's website.

Many countries have become increasingly reluctant to grant entry to cruise ships after the infection of more than 700 people on a vessel berthed off Japan showed how quickly the virus could spread. Australia has announced a ban on foreign cruise ships, but is still allowing domestic vessels and some ships that were at sea when the restrictions were announced to dock and disembark passengers.

Published : March 25, 2020

By : Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Matthew Burgess