10 May 2023

EXCLUSIVE: Two ship workers test positive to COVID-19 off coast of Weipa

| Matt Nicholls
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QUEENSLAND authorities have been accused of concealing COVID-19 cases after two ship workers tested positive to coronavirus on a vessel anchored off the coast of Weipa.

Cape York Weekly can reveal that two workers on a ship destined for Rio Tinto’s Amrun mine are in quarantine on the vessel, although there are concerns that others may be infected.

There are 21 crew members aboard the ship, which is located around 20 nautical miles offshore. All have been tested for coronavirus, although just two returned positives.

Authorities were notified early yesterday after the men displayed symptoms of COVID-19.

Two nurses from Weipa Hospital were yesterday airlifted on board the ship and conducted the swab tests.

They returned to Weipa by helicopter to process the results.

The case is being managed by Queensland Health and Queensland Marine Safety. The ship is not owned by Rio Tinto and is believed to have originated in the Philippines.

Authorities are now scrambling to come up with a strategy to deal with the carrier, which was about to be loaded with bauxite and shipped to China.

Cape York residents are not in danger of contracting the virus, but there are fears that more crew members on the ship may have been infected.

A source told Cape York Weeklythat it was unlikely passengers needing urgent medical attention would be treated in Weipa.

“They might fly them to Weipa Airport to be met by the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) and then taken to Cairns,” he said.

It is believed that authorities are considering a plan to re-route the ship closer to Cairns, on the other side of the Peninsula, which would provide easier access to emergency care.

Queensland Marine Safety protocol insists that vessels travelling from overseas must be at sea for at least 14 days before docking in the state. This protocol has been enforced in Weipa, which regularly welcomes international ships at its Weipa and Amrun ports.

Meanwhile, a secondary source said she was concerned that Queensland Health had made no public statement.

“On the Queensland Health website it says there are zero new cases in Queensland and zero in the Torres and Cape area,” she said.

“The positive results came in on Wednesday afternoon. Surely the public deserves to know.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles today made an announcement that it had been another day of no new cases in Queensland, marking 14 days since the last suspected infectious case in the community.

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