Sydney - Australia ordered two cruise ships to leave its waters on Thursday, after a liner that docked in Sydney Harbour last week became the primary source of infection in the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Although well below levels elsewhere in the world, the pace of Australia’s infections is starting to pick up speed, reaching nearly 2,800 cases and 13 deaths.
The government of West Australia state said nobody would be permitted to disembark from the German-operated MV Artania after seven of 800 foreign passengers on board tested positive for the virus, unless there was a “life threatening emergency”.
“This ship needs to leave immediately,” Premier Mark McGowan said. “Our position is clear, we are not going to have a Sydney Harbour fiasco on our watch.”
Germany’s Phoenix Reisen, owner of the Artania, was not immediately available for comment.
McGowan said a second cruise ship, the MSC Magnifica, which was refused permission to dock in Perth this week, was headed out of Australian waters. MSC Cruises, which has said it had no ill passengers, declined to comment on its destination.
Cruise ships have become a flashpoint after 147 of the 2,700 passengers allowed to disembark from Carnival Corp’s (CCL.N) Ruby Princess later tested positive for the virus, a blunder that underlined official tensions in handling the crisis.