Western Australian Health Worker’s Virus Breach ‘Stupid’

Western Australian Health Worker’s Virus Breach ‘Stupid’
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan speaks during a media conference at Dumas House in Perth, Australia on Sept. 4, 2020. (Matt Jelonek/Getty Images)

WA’s premier says a healthcare worker was “stupid” to approach COVID-infected ship crew without protective equipment and she has been ordered into quarantine.

Photos have emerged of the WA Health employee in close proximity to infected crew as they disembarked the Patricia Oldendorff bulk carrier off Port Hedland.

Premier Mark McGowan, who labelled her actions as “stupid,” has confirmed she was directed to enter quarantine on Oct. 1, almost a week after the incident.

He said any further action would be a matter for WA Health but he did not expect her to lose her job.

“Obviously it was a very disappointing and, to a degree, stupid thing that took place and I’m unhappy that the example being set wasn’t of the standard that we would expect,” he said.

Nine people remain on the ship as essential crew, seven of whom have tested positive.

There are also a dozen crew members in quarantine at the fenced-off Hedland Hotel and 10 of them have tested positive.

None are seriously unwell.

The premier visited Port Hedland on Oct. 1 and inspected the hotel quarantine site, also meeting with health workers and ports staff.

“The fencing, the security, all of the arrangements in place I think are first-class and we’re obviously doing our best to protect people,” he said.

Australian Defence Force personnel also arrived on Oct. 1 to assist police and security guards in overseeing the hotel quarantine situation.

The Patricia Oldendorff, carrying 20 Filipino nationals and the captain, is anchored eight nautical miles off WA’s northwest coast.

It arrived from Manila on Sept. 16.

Authorities are confident the infected crew will fully recover and the ship, which needs at least 13 fit crew to set sail, will depart by Oct. 10 at the latest.

“Crew members are rapidly getting better,” McGowan said.

“There’s at least two that are recovered, two or three more expected to recover. Once they are all fully recovered, the expectation is they'll go back on the ship and sail her away.”

Another ship will arrive in Port Hedland to pick up the manganese the Patricia Oldendorff was carrying, the premier said.

WA’s government will investigate what testing protocols were in place when the ship departed the Philippines and may seek costs from the vessel operator.

The Maritime Union of Australia said vessels should be required to remain at sea for at least 14 days before docking in WA ports.

WA recorded one new COVID-19 case on Oct. 1, with a man in his 30s testing positive in hotel quarantine after returning from India.

By Michael Ramsey