THE fate of 21 crew members aboard the MV Spirit of Ho-Ping off the coast of Newcastle remains unclear. More than half of the crew have COVID-19 and only one person is vaccinated. Testing was carried out after a "respiratory outbreak" was reported to NSW.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed on Wednesday that the ship, which sailed from the Philippines on August 16, has not docked on Australian shores. He also said there were 'protocols' in place but, along with NSW Health authorities, was unable to provide details.
A statement provided by NSW Health later on Wednesday said a high-trained retrieval medicine specialist was transported to the ship, and assessed all crew members. "None of the crew have required medical transfer from the vessel," it said. The results of testing, due on Thursday, would determine the "next steps' for the vessel.
The CEO of Hunterlink, a not-for-profit organisation which provides assistance to seafarers through the International Transport Federation, said she had significant concerns. Those with COVID could deteriorate very rapidly, impacting everyone on board, she said. "Why they can't come alongside, with all of the controls that are in place, and get the medical support that they should be accessing under the maritime convention."
Swansea MP Yasmin Catley has also called for protocols allowing for crew changes similar to those in place for international airlines. "I see no reason why the NSW government cannot and should not also develop a COVID-safe protocol for international seafarers," she said.
Hunter New England Health is "assessing medical care and public health requirements", and liaising with the Port Authority of NSW, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, NSW Police and federal government departments over the outbreak, a statement said.
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