WA faces COVID-19 threats on multiple fronts after the arrival of a virus-riddled chemical tanker was compounded by the discovery of an infected diplomat with four close contacts who spent time in the community.
Twelve crew members of the Stolt Sakura – which docked in Fremantle Port on Saturday morning – have now tested positive for the virus, three of whom have been transferred to Fiona Stanley Hospital.
More troubling is what Prime Minister Mark McGowan described as a case of “some complexity” involving an Australian diplomatic officer, his wife and young child who arrived in Perth from Serbia via Dubai on September 29.
The man’s position as a Commonwealth diplomat allowed the family to bypass hotel quarantine in favor of self-isolation at an apartment complex in Northbridge – which Mr McGowan said was in line with border controls for a “senior government official”.
The trio were tested on day two of their quarantine period and the man’s test came back positive yesterday.
Mr McGowan said the diplomat – who is in his 30s – and his wife have both been fully vaccinated and the family has now been transferred to a quarantine hotel in a “COVID ambulance”.
“I have heard that the transfer was carried out under strict protocols and that there were no problems,” he said.
So far, however, four close contacts have been identified: a driver who transported the family from Perth Airport to the apartment in Northbridge and three employees who work on the complex.
Each has spent time in the community between contact with the diplomat and being in self-quarantine 14 days after discovering his infection.
“They are all being tested and we have one negative test result so far,” said Mr McGowan.
“Our health team will continue to review CCTV and continue investigations to identify any further contacts.
“Our health authorities advise that this is an extremely low risk to public health, but we are not taking any risks.”
When asked why the family had not been placed directly in hotel quarantine – like ordinary Australians returning from abroad – Mr McGowan said: “These are Commonwealth rules”.
“So for people in the diplomatic service, whether they’re foreign diplomats or returning Australians, the Commonwealth puts them in these kinds of environments.”
In two other cases, Adelaide Airport has been declared a potential exposure site and everyone aboard Virgin flight VA722 to Perth, which departed at 6pm on Friday, has been contacted and instructed to immediately undergo COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine. post until a negative result.
The precaution came in response to a Victorian who flew into Adelaide at 5.30pm on Friday and tested positive for the virus.
WA health authorities are also closely monitoring the situation in Tasmania, which also registered a new case on Saturday night involving a 15-year-old boy who arrived in the state by plane.
Both South Australia and Tasmania are currently classified as “very low risk” jurisdictions with no travel restrictions.
Two crew members disembarked from the Stolt Sakura and were taken to hospital in the morning – one in a wheelchair – and a third seafarer was removed overnight.
“Police assisted the escorts and no incidents were reported,” McGowan said.
Two are currently in intensive care at FSH – one in a serious but stable condition, the other in a stable condition.
“At this stage, it is expected that all other (19) crew members will remain on board the vessel in isolation unless they need to be transferred for medical attention,” Mr McGowan said.
The Stolt Sakura is manned by an all-Filipino crew and traveled from Singapore to WA, with previous stops in South Korea, China and Taiwan.