Coronavirus News Asia

Australia tells virus-hit cruise ships to go home

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Australia insisted Friday it would not let the crew of multiple virus-stricken cruise ships into the country, slapping aside suggestions it was falling short on legal and moral obligations.

More than a dozen ships are believed to be off Australia’s coast, carrying about 15,000 crew and some experiencing outbreaks of coronavirus.

“We have issued notices to all of these ships to leave Australian waters,” Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram told local media Friday.

“If ever there was a time, I think, for ships to go back to where they’re registered, it’s probably during a time of a global pandemic like this.”

Many vessels fly under flags of convenience – registered to countries such as Panama, the Bahamas and Liberia, which have scant capacity to screen or treat an influx of possible virus carriers.

The issue has become a global problem, with ships looking for safe ports from Florida to Yokohama to Perth and angry authorities accusing the multi-billion dollar cruise industry of being reckless.

Australian authorities say they will not risk unleashing a wave of Covid-19-positive people into the country, burdening local health services that are already scrambling to increase capacity.

Cruise ships have already accounted for almost 10% of Australia’s more than 5,000 infections and several deaths.

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