WA Premier Mark McGowan backtracks on coronvirus sick crew

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has been forced to back-pedal on claims the state wasn’t informed about sick crew on a live export ship before it docked in Fremantle Port.

Of the 48 crew on board the Al Kuwait ship, which arrived from the United Arab Emirates last Friday, six people have tested positive for COVID-19.

The WA government had previously complained that the federal Department of Agriculture didn’t advise the state that three crew members had fevers before the ship reached the port.

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“Clearly if there are cases of people reporting high temperatures on board, that should be reported and red flags should be raised,” he said.

“I would say to everyone involved, in particular the commonwealth agencies who knew about this, they need to be on guard and be alert about these cases.”

Mr McGowan backtracked on Wednesday after it was revealed an email had been sent to the general inbox of WA’s Public Health Emergency Operations Centre informing them of the crew members with high temperatures.

However, the email did say there was “no concern for COVID-19 on board”.

Mr McGowan admitted that “clearly” mistakes had been made and there had been an issue with communication.

“Unfortunately, yesterday I wasn’t provided with some information, which meant the full picture was not clear,” he said on Wednesday.

He said the email “plainly should have” caused concern within the health department.

“There clearly have been some errors all around,” Mr McGowan said.

“We have to learn from our mistakes and move forward.”

He said this should serve as a “wake-up call to everyone”.

State health minister, Roger Cook, said sending the email to a general inbox was inappropriate.

Mr Cook insisted there is no risk to the public as the six crew members who tested positive are in quarantine in a Perth hotel and did not enter the community.

Several port workers entered the ship while wearing PPE before it was discovered crew members were infected with the virus.

Two people of that group were deemed to be in close contact with the sick crew members are and now isolating.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud earlier moved to ease concerns for those who boarded.

“Everyone who has come into contact with the Al Kuwait has undertaken that,” Mr Littleproud said.

He also insisted the situation was handled correctly.

“I have asked my department to go back and double-check and triple-check to make sure that every protocol has been adhered to,” he said.

“But on the face of it, we believe that every protocol was in line with the COVID protocols that have been put in place.”

Of the 42 crew members still on board the ship, 27 will be removed and put in a Perth hotel while 15 will stay on board as skeleton crew.

Mr McGowan said he wants the ship to leave as soon as possible, with the state government working with Mr Littleproud on a solution.

“That may include flying in a new crew, subject to strict quarantine, cleaning the ship and getting it under way as soon as possible,” Mr McGowan said.

With AAP

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