Residents of the isolated West Australian port town of Port Hedland have been reassured that they are at no risk as more crew members of a ship have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Locals say they are worried about their safety, given that eight more sailors from the bulk carrier Patricia Oldendorff tested positive on Monday, bringing the total number of crew infections to 17.
Ten infected crew are now staying in Port Hedland and are in quarantine. A further seven infected crew remain on the vessel, which is anchored around nine nautical miles offshore from the Pilbara town.
Ship arrived a week ago from Manila
A total of four crew members have tested negative. Two are on the ship and two are in the makeshift Port Hedland quarantine facility, which is a local hotel
The crew are all Filipinos and the Patricia Oldendorff arrived off the WA coast about a week ago from the city of Manila in the Philippines.
WA Health and the WA Country Health Service have again sought to reassure the Port Hedland community, saying “every safety measure is being put in place to protect the local community”.
Residents concerned about safety
“The safety of the maritime workers, emergency services and transport staff, hotel staff and the local community continues to be our number one priority,” their statement said.
But residents in the town of around 15,000 people say they are concerned for their safety.
According to a report by ABC News, Port Hedland Ratepayers Association president Arnold Carter described the situation as “amazing, shocking and disastrous”.
No dedicated quarantine facility
“This is something that we always thought was on the horizon, but to see it eventually in your own town has come as a bit of a shock,” he said.
Carter questioned why a quarantine facility had not been established in preparation for an outbreak on a ship.
“With the amount of money that goes out of Port Hedland with the iron ore industry … there is not a facility for emergencies such as this in the Pilbara,” he said. “We have a [refugee] detention centre up there at Cooke Point absolutely empty.”
Ten members of the ADF are due to arrive in the town on Thursday to assist with the quarantine operation.