Western Australia’s Health Department has declared a new coronavirus outbreak in Port Hedland only a day after settling another virus-infected ship problem.
A crew member of the Vega Dream cargo ship anchored off the WA coast feared to be infected with coronavirus has been transferred to a nearby health campus.
Officials are concerned the new cases could be a ticking time bomb for the community and the resource hub dubbed the “engine room” of Australia’s economy.
Health Minister Roger Cook said a crew member on board the Vega Dream iron ore carrier returned a positive result to a rapid COVID-19 test which is still yet to be confirmed.
The crew member is currently isolated while the samples are now being sent to Perth to confirm whether or not he has the virus.
The Department of Health says while a positive test result is anticipated it’s not a given until a second test confirms the result tomorrow.
The 20 crew members on board, including the isolated case, have not had contact with the public. The remaining crew who have not been tested have not disembarked the Vega Dream which is fully loaded with iron ore and must leave the port today.
There are 15 active cases in WA including two new cases today – not including the potential new case from the Port Hedland crew member.
This comes after the Patricia Oldendorffcargo ship leaves Port Hedland after 18 of its 21 crew members tested positive to COVID-19.
The ship arrived in Australian waters from Manila last month.
Mr Cook said the two outbreaks show its time for the Federal Government to get involved.
“The Commonwealth Government has to actually make sure that it works with its international partners so that we don’t have these situations continue to emerge,” he said.
He added that if it gets out into the community it will create a disaster – worse than what’s been seen in Melbourne.
AMA president Omar Khorshid issued a severe warning that the outbreak could prove to be a “death sentence” if not managed correctly.
“If the virus gets out into the Port Hedland community, particularly into the Indigenous community in Port Hedland, we would expect a catastrophic outcome that would be worse than what we have seen in Melbourne with severe illness and death resulting in an outbreak,” he told The West Australian.
WA recorded more new coronavirus infections than Victoria after the Patricia Oldendorff outbreak – the first time a state has since June 6 – after months of soaring numbers which crippled the southern state.