Two COVID-positive patients on ship to come ashore
TWO men aboard a cargo ship off the Mackay coast have tested positive for COVID-19.
The 21 crew members aboard the Dhun, anchored off Hay Point, were swabbed on Wednesday after anchoring in the early hours that day.
There have been several meetings today between various bodies to determine the next steps for the ship, which was coming in to load coal.
While there was initially some discussion the men would be transferred to Mackay Base Hospital, it is understood they could now be going to Townsville.
Under Hay Point rules, the ship will not go to port until it is cleared of the disease.
There will be further tests of the remaining crew while it is anchored off the coast.
Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Angus Mitchell said the authority had stepped up its support and protection of Queenslanders.
He said MSQ would ensure the continuation of commercial shipping, protect vulnerable communities and prioritise the health and welfare of seafarers and maritime workers.
"Results received today report two seafarers tested positive for COVID-19 and the other 19 crew have tested negative," he said.
"MSQ is currently working with Queensland Health to medevac the two unwell seafarers from the vessel and continue to monitor and retest the remaining crew."
Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said while two crew members were confirmed positive for coronavirus, they were not feeling ill.
He said because the ship had anchored in Australian waters on Wednesday, the crew members have a valid maritime visa to be in Australia for 30 days.
"The call was made we should evacuate these two patients," he said.
"The crew members joined the ship in Tokyo on August 4.
"So the ship has been at sea for more than two weeks and … these two appear to be the only two on-board with COVID after two weeks at sea.
"It's important to realise that there's very, very tight operational bubble being put around the extraction of these two people.
"It's being overseen by Queensland police and initial suggestions are that the transfer will be done by a police boat.
"It appears now these two cases will probably go to Townsville."
Cr Williamson said there was no cause for alarm.
He said Mackay Hospital and Health Service had expertly handled 15 cases in our region in the early days of the pandemic and there was no community transmission of the disease.
"We've got to be reassured that the operational expertise of MHHS and Maritime Safety Queensland is just second-to-none in this," he said.
"And I think it's much better from a humanity perspective to have these two people off the ship to sit out the disease within a Queensland hospital, rather than stay on the ship and risk infecting everyone else.
"They have a valid maritime visa for 30 days … and I think that's the best thing to do.
"The operational bubble around these two will ensure community safety.
"We've done it before and we'll do it again with these ones."
The Dhun was the third ship in five days to arrive off the Mackay coast with suspected COVID cases.
Just yesterday all 21 crew members aboard the Kilian Oldendorff cargo ship off Hay Point since Sunday have been cleared from coronavirus.
Mr Mitchell said the bulk carrier had since been cleared of the disease and the ship had been cleared to berth tomorrow at Hay Point.
It was confirmed on Friday last week that two crew members aboard the Globe Electra, off Abbot Point, tested positive to coronavirus.
The ship headed north to anchor off Townsville so the two patients could be transferred to Townsville University Hospital.