Soldiers deployed to help contain virus outbreak on ship off Australian coast

Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were due to touch down in the country’s west on Thursday to assist with a COVID-19 outbreak aboard an offshore vessel near Port Hedland, one of the world’s largest iron ore shipping junctions.

The Patricia Oldendorff bulk carrier, whose crew travelled from the Philippines, declared this week that 17 of the 21 people on board had tested positive for the virus.

As of Wednesday, 10 crew members had been removed and contained in hotel quarantine, while 11 remained on board as essential crew, seven of whom were positive for COVID-19.

ADF personnel were called in to assist local police and security forces in conducting the hotel quarantine and containment of the virus to ensure it did not spread to the local community.

The sparsely populated State of Western Australia (WA) has not recorded any cases of community transmission since early April when it closed its international and domestic borders, making it one of the most successful jurisdictions in the country in terms of virus containment.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook has said he planned for the infected crew members to begin recovering, and the ship is expected to depart Australia’s waters by Oct. 10.

“We’ll be able to start declaring some of the crew disease-free in the coming days,” Cook said.

None of the crew members were said to be in need of serious medical assistance, with only a few showing mild symptoms, however WA health authorities said it would be provided if necessary.