Australia’s cruise industry, which is just resuming business following a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, has hit a setback with a dozen COVID-19 cases on a ship docked in Western Australia (WA).
WA health authorities have confirmed that 10 passengers and two crew members of the Coral Discoverer tested positive to the virus after the ship docked in the popular tourist destination of Broome on Monday, having completed a 10-day trip from the Northern Territory (NT) capital of Darwin.
The cases, all of whom were fully vaccinated, are reportedly mild or asymptomatic, and several of them have been sent to designated quarantine hotels to complete their isolation period.
“Maritime vessels are permitted to allow positive cases to disembark and move to suitable accommodation to complete their isolation/quarantine requirements,” a WA Health spokesperson said.
“All precautions will be taken to ensure the Broome community is protected.”
The outbreak on the Coral Discoverer came only days after Australia ended its prolonged ban on cruise ships entering its ports, a safety precaution which immediately stalled an industry estimated to generate about 5.2 billion Australian dollars (about 3.7 billion U.S. dollars) annually.
That ban began in March 2020 following more than 440 COVID-19 cases disembarking from the cruise ship Ruby Princess into Australia’s most populated city, Sydney.
The issue of re-establishing the cruise industry while also protecting the public’s health remains contentious in Australia.
Speaking to local media Nine News television network on Monday, Australian Medical Association (AMA) vice president Dr. Chris Moy said cruise ships were still “high-risk areas” for the spread of the infectious disease.
“Cruise ships remain places where COVID can spread easily and where super-spreader events can occur,” Moy said.
Although states such as New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, Victoria and WA have welcomed the lifting of the national ban from April 17, they have imposed stricter safety measures for cruise ships.
In NSW, for example, requirements include proof of full vaccination for everyone on board over the age of 12, a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding, and the mandatory wearing of masks when boarding or leaving a vessel.
Meanwhile, the island state of Tasmania has yet to join its mainland counterparts, with its government website reading, “Work is underway on a policy to support the safe resumption of cruising in Tasmania, with guidance to be provided for industry ahead of the next cruise season.” ■