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Cruise ship passengers are stranded around the world as governments struggle to work out how to get them safely home without infecting people with coronavirus.
The never-ending holiday from hell continued for passengers on a docked ship in Melbourne yesterday, with Premier Daniel Andrews warning “no one is getting off those ships”.
And it came after Victoria’s cases soared to 685 yesterday — a jump of 111.
Supplies were seen being loaded on to the Pacific Princess, while passengers stood on deck staring at the shore as it docked at Port Melbourne to refuel.
The ship arrived from Fremantle, WA, at 9am yesterday with 112 US citizens on board and three Australians, who are permanent US residents. Two US citizens boarded the ship to return to the US.
Are you an international traveller now being quarantined in a Melbourne hotel? Email: Monique.Hore@news.com.au
After being at sea for three months, and with no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the 115 passengers were not allowed on to land due to coronavirus restrictions.
A spokesman for the ship told the Sunday Herald Sun it had not been denied entry to any port and would leave for the US with passengers who were unable to fly.
Mr Andrews insisted nobody would disembark.
“Nobody will be getting off those ships,” he said.
“They are here in our harbour, in our local community, in our waters, to receive food and other stores.
“No one is getting off those ships. Be in no doubt, there’s no chance anyone is getting off those ships.”
There was a heavy police presence around the dock.
Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said any foreign nationals stuck on cruise ships with COVID-19 would have to leave the country today.
“One is a local ship, the Vasco da Gama, which has Australia and New Zealand passengers, he said. “The other one is the Artemia, which has people mainly from Germany.
“There are people with COVID 19 on that ship. And we are working as a federal government with the government very closely, as well as with the German government, to repatriate, anyone who is fit to fly back to Germany and other places in Europe tomorrow.”
Another ship, the Seabourn Sojourn arrives today from Fremantle with just two passengers, both from the US.
They are unable to fly and will remain on board when the ship departs for the US later today.
Meanwhile, a secret plan to rescue 235 Australians on the Costa Victoria off Italy is under way.
After being turned away by ports in Croatia, the UAE and Israel, the ship docked in Civitavecchia a Boeing 777 is on standby to fly them home. Fears are growing the group may have to enter lockdown in Rome if approval cannot be given by the federal government.
Director of Airstream Jets Asia Pacific, Vas Nikolovski, said the ship’s owner had agreed to pay for the repatriation of all Australians on board to fly home, but the federal government was holding up the process.
“We need our government to put pressure on the Italians to say ‘this is happening now’,” he said.
The plane is waiting in Munich to pick up Australians from Rome, and the Italian government has assured safe passage from the ship to the airport.
Victorian man Chris Lewis is one of almost 300 passengers to be quarantined after arriving back in Australia from the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship.
The 72-year-old Heywood passenger told the Sunday Herald Sun it was like being in prison.
“We’re stuck in a hotel room, we’re not allowed to leave, there are no windows to open, there’s a TV and that’s it,” he said. “What we need is a dedicated health and welfare officer to see what’s going on.”
PASSENGERS ARRIVE AS NEW QUARANTINE RESTRICTIONS BEGIN
Passengers arriving on the first international flights into Melbourne since strict new quarantine restrictions came into place have arrived.
The passengers were shuffled onto buses as they landed at the Airport.
The quarantine restrictions, which came into place at midnight requires all Australians to isolate in hotels for 14 days.
Skybuses picked up passengers arriving from Santiago and Doha this morning with more to arrive throughout the day.
Passengers were directed onto buses on the tarmac who were escorted out of the Airport by police cars.
STAY AWAY, HOLIDAY BEACH HOUSE OWNERS TOLD
Coastal councils are asking holiday home owners to stay home during the coronavirus crisis to avoid placing elderly local populations at risk and straining small town services.
It comes after hundreds of beachgoers were slammed for their selfish display on Friday and Saturday, ignoring pleas to stay inside in order to safeguard others.
Fears have grown after the public Portsea spat involving a wealthy Melbourne couple with COVID-19, who locals claim flouted self-isolation rules and could have spread the virus in the Mornington Peninsula township.
While coastal councils are shutting caravan parks and tourist attractions, they are powerless to stop holiday home owners from bunkering down in their beach houses.
Surf Coast Shire CEO Keith Baillie said people should stay in their permanent homes. This included “people wanting to move to their holiday house” in Torquay and towns along the Great Ocean Road.
Popular seaside hamlet Barwon Heads has many holiday homes, and is inside City of Greater Geelong boundaries.
CEO Martin Cutter said these school holidays would be “unlike any we have known”.
“Strong government health advice is that people should not undertake non-essential travel, this includes trips to holiday homes or to other private accommodation. In line with this advice, the City is urging people to do the right thing and stay home,” he said.
Queenscliff, on the Bellarine Peninsula, is also asking non-permanent residents to stay away. “We know people from all over Victoria love the Borough (of Queenscliff) as much as we do, and avoiding visiting our community at this time will help keep this special place safe and healthy,” Mayor Ross Ebbels said.
Victoria is on the brink of tough new restrictions on people leaving their houses after the Sunday Herald Sun witnessed car parks full to capacity and hundreds of people enjoying the sunshine on the Surf Coast.
The state’s Chief Health Officer labelled the behaviour “really crap” and warned that the nation would have 100,000 people infected with coronavirus in the next two to three weeks if people did not change their behaviour immediately.
THOUSANDS OF VENTILATORS ON WAY
More lifesaving ventilators are expected to arrive this week in time to open new intensive care beds before peak coronavirus hits Victoria.
But Premier Daniel Andrews warned thousands could die if they relied on having access to a breathing machine that might not be available rather that practising self-distancing.
The Sunday Herald Sun understands the first of 2000 ventilators ordered by the state government are set to arrive from overseas in the next week, though the exact number and make-up of the delivery is yet to be confirmed.
A further 4000 high-flow oxygen therapy units for patients suffering acute respiratory failure, but who do not need full intubation, are also on order, as well as 130 dialysis machines and 1200 patient monitors.
The government is also in talks with local companies about making portable ventilators that can be sent to hospitals in areas of need.
US and European manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand and China, France and Italy have seen orders fall well short. In one case only 400 of an order for 4000 ventilators could be delivered.
Victoria’s public and private hospitals usually operate 23,000 beds and 500 ICU beds.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said Victoria had already stepped up its critical care capacity to about 1000 beds, but expected a much larger increase as new equipment rolled in.
“We are boosting beds across the system, commissioning new and old buildings, and winding back elective surgery,” Ms Mikakos said. “Many people have already put their hands up to support our hospitals in the coming weeks and months — including retired staff, those who have moved onto other careers, research and medical science staff as well as students.
“We’re working to quickly activate every health care worker who is able to provide patient care in our hospitals and ensure they have the necessary qualifications, training and registration.”
Victoria currently has 200 full-time equivalent intensive care medical specialists, more than 1200 anaesthetists and 4000 critical care nurses working in the public and private hospital systems.
Usually medical workers must undertake specialist postgraduate training before they are qualified to care for critically ill patients.
But governments, medical colleges and the health regulator have agreed to short cuts they say will allow workers with similar skills to be retrained safely to step into the breach for coronavirus cases.
Hospitals have already begun training.
But Mr Andrews warned even if the state could open thousands of more beds, they would not be enough if Victorians flouted hygiene and isolation measures.
“If we finish up with 10,000 people and only 5000 beds, well, we know what that means — that means thousands of people will die who would not have died if we had all done the right thing. If we had all stayed at home,” Mr Andrews said.
‘GET OUT OF JAIL FREE’ CARD REJECTED
The Victorian government has ruled out the early release of prisoners as concern grows about a COVID-19 outbreak in the state’s jails.
More than 100 lawyers and legal figures last week wrote to the government urging the immediate release of some prisoners and for it to consider relaxing bail laws.
The letter was signed by some of Victoria’s most respected lawyers, including Julian McMahon, SC, Ruth Shann and Rob Stary.
But a spokesman for Corrections Minister Ben Carroll said the government had no plans to release prisoners early.
“Corrections Victoria has established processes for preventing and managing communicable diseases in custody, including isolation protocols,” he said.
The letter called for a range of prisoners — including elderly, immunosuppressed, nonviolent criminals and pregnant women — to be released, along with the young, indigenous prisoners, those close to parole, and those likely to serve less than six months in jail.
“Releasing such people will protect their fundamental rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act including the right to life, right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty and the right to be protected from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the lawyers argued.
The NSW government has legislated early release for some prisoners because of the risk posed by coronavirus.
Source – World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media
SPLIT PARENTS URGED TO USE COMMON SENSE
Families with shared parenting responsibilities are being urged to act with common sense during the coronavirus crisis.
As governments urge people to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, authorities are acknowledging it may not be possible to adhere to the letter of child custody arrangements.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said it was important that as far as possible parents should deal with changes by agreement.
“Parenting orders continue to apply but, of course, there will be some circumstances that make that challenging and the Family Law Act does make provision for situations where there is a reasonable excuse for not being able to strictly comply,” he said.
“Where agreement can’t be reached, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court continue to hear urgent matters, including in relation to enforcement of parenting orders, and have implemented and are expanding the ability to conduct proceedings as much as possible through video and telephone.”
Chief Justice of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Will Alstergren, said those courts would remain open.
“We provide an essential service for Australian families particularly in times of crisis,” he said. “We take this obligation very seriously and closing is not an option.
“We’ll continue to hear immigration matters as well. “
Families that change custody arrangements during the crisis are urged to keep a written record of their agreements.
As the world has been thrust into turmoil due to the coronavirus crisis, Educational Consultant Dr Prue Salter advises parents who have chosen to homeschool their children to “be creative”. Dr Salter is among some of Australia’s leading parenting experts who are collaborating to help parents educate their children from home while simultaneously raising funds for women’s shelters. She said parents should “have a fresh look at the spaces within their house and think about what they might be able to do a little bit differently”. “Make sure you have a designated learning space … and keep the boundaries between the relaxation time and the learning time really clear,” she said. Ms Salter advised parents to ensure that learning areas had “decent lighting” in order to avoid headaches and eye strain. Digital Wellbeing Expert Dr Kristy Goodwin said technology should be used as a tool for “communication and collaboration” and parents should focus on “what the child is doing with the device” and not to stress too much about how much time children are spending on the device.
DRINKING IN ISOLATION POSES RISKS
Isolation and intoxication are a recipe for disaster in the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown, warns Dr Andrew Rochford.
With the pressures of large-scale job losses mixed with long hours at home with little to do, fears are rising the extreme stress of the coronavirus pandemic will drive many to drink excessively.
DrinkWise ambassador Dr Rochford warned increasing alcohol consumption to cope in uncertain times could lead to longer-term problems. “Coronavirus has presented many challenges for all Australians in recent weeks, particularly to our health, wellbeing, general feeling of safety and financial stability,” Dr Rochford said.
“People need to keep track of what they are drinking and if they think they might be drinking too much alcohol, they should seek help. It’s really important to also take care of your physical and mental health during this time of self-isolation by continuing to exercise, calling your family and friends to check in and remaining as positive as you can for those isolating with you.”
Proposed guidelines by the National Health Medical Research Council recommend people do not drink more than 10 standard drinks a per week.
RURAL BODY WANTS BUSH STIMULUS
Rural communities that were just beginning to heal from the recent bushfire crisis are struggling again under the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rural Councils Victoria is calling on the state and federal governments to set up a $4 billion Victorian rural emergency package to help these areas survive.
The emergency stimulus package would provide assistance for 38 councils and regions worst hit by the fires.
It would include rate relief for individuals and businesses, give tourism-related companies a boost, and guarantee any funded projects at risk of being postponed.
RCV suggested a stimulus would aid food security for Victoria as we continue deeper into the coronavirus crisis, with many rural areas contributing to the state’s produce.
“Many communities have taken a triple blow, with drought, the bushfire crisis and now the coronavirus,” said RCV chair, Cr Mary-Ann Brown. “Many tourism-related businesses could retain staff for essential maintenance and improvement works with creative government support and be ready to fully reopen when the COVID-19 crisis is over.”
— With Shannon Deery, Christina Karras, James Campbell