Thirty-three British nationals are among hundreds of passengers who face quarantine on board a cruise ship arriving in Australia on Friday.
While Australian citizens and permanent residents will be quarantined on the island of Rottnest when the Vasco de Gama ship arrives at the port of Fremantle, western Australia, non-nationals will have to remain on the ship.
It is understood that none of the 1,500 passengers on the Vasco de Gama have tested positive to Covid-19, and there are no reports of illness on board, but the strict conditions come in the wake of the disastrous handling of the Ruby Princess ship when it landed in New South Wales.
Of the 2,700 that disembarked from the Ruby Princess on 19 March, at least 133 have since tested positive for Covid-19, one of whom has died.
The ship has been linked to 44 new cases of the illness in South Australia. Sixty of the state’s 235 confirmed cases are linked to cruise ships.
While the federal Border Force is responsible for arrivals in Australia, it has attempted to blame the NSW health department for letting the ship dock without coronavirus checks.
On Wednesday, Western Australia's Premier, Mark McGowan, described the handling of the Ruby Princess as “a complete and utter disaster”.
“I will not allow that to happen in Western Australia. There are no circumstances where we will allow passengers or crew to wander the streets in our state.”
The only exception, he said, would be a life-threatening emergency.
It emerged late on Thursday that the Western Australian government had given permission for a separate cruise ship, the Artania, to berth in Fremantle under extremely stringent conditions, as the ship has seven passengers on board who have tested positive for coronavirus.
Two of the Artania’s passengers were airlifted off on Thursday because of a non-coronavirus medical problem.
It is understood the Western Australian government will treat the passengers with coronavirus under strict quarantine at a defence base, while the healthy passengers are flown back to their home countries.
The quarantine details for the Vasco de Gama are yet to be determined, but the authorities said that foreign nationals who are not permanent residents of Australia will remain on the ship, including 150 passengers and 550 crew members, until direct flights home can be organised.
Mr McGowan initially said the Australians on board would be allowed to disembark first, before being transported to the island of Rottnest, although he later said they too would remain on board until the quarantine arrangements were finalised.
Rottnest has fewer than 300 living quarters, and there are some 800 Australians and permanent residents on the Vasco de Gama.
The decision came as a Perth man who had previously been on a cruise ship died. The man, in his 70s, travelled on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship, one of several to dock in Sydney between March 18 and 20, including the Ruby Princess.
His was the second coronavirus-linked death recorded in Western Australia.