More COVID Tests for Infected Ship Off Queensland

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
October 22, 2020Updated: October 22, 2020

Queensland health officials are expected to perform more COVID-19 tests on the infected crew of a cargo ship near Brisbane amid fears they could carry a mystery strain of the virus.

Two crew members aboard the MV Sofrana Surville were diagnosed with coronavirus after the vessel anchored off Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the New Zealand government had asked Queensland Health to undertake genomic sequencing of the suspected new virus strain.

“The initial tests only provide a positive or negative result,” he said on Oct 22.

The freighter and its crew of 19 were blocked from docking in Brisbane after New Zealand authorities alerted Australian officials the vessel’s crew could be infected with a mutated COVID-19 strain.

The Sofrana left New Zealand earlier in the month with fresh crew from the Philippines before stopping at Noumea in New Caledonia.

It then sailed for Brisbane.

An engineer who had worked on the Sofrana tested positive for the disease after it sailed from Auckland.

Miles said authorities were also working towards potentially evacuating the infected crew from the ship to a hospital

He said they would be counted in Queensland’s COVID-19 tally if they were transferred to the mainland.

Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Angus Mitchell previously said the Sofrana remains isolated in a “negative quarantine status”.

This restricts the movement of people on and off the vessel.

The virus testing was completed by a private pathologist contracted by the ship’s agent.

Aaron Bunch in Brisbane