PERTH, Australia (AP) — More than 800 cruise ship passengers and crew were heading home to Germany on chartered flights on Monday while 41 others infected with the coronavirus were admitted to an Australian hospital after an argument over where they should be treated among local medical personnel.
Health authorities initially wanted to send the sick passengers aboard the cruise ship Artania to the Hollywood and Bethesda hospitals in the city of Perth. But nurses and doctors’ groups argued that those hospitals were not equipped to cope with the disease. The federal government then struck a deal with the private Joondalup Health Campus, which was already treating patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
"This humanitarian hospital care will be provided in one of the state's premier facilities, which is fully prepared for and is already treating COVID-19 patients," Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement Monday.
Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said 844 Artania passengers and crew had begun flying home on four chartered flights on Monday.
“I understand about 479 crew members remain on the ship and I expect and hope that that ship will leave Western Australia in coming days,” McGowan told reporters.
Around 200 Australians who reside in Western Australia and were aboard another cruise ship that arrived off Perth over the weekend, Vasco da Gama, were ferried on Monday to the vacation destination of Rottnest Island to be isolated for two weeks.
Another 600 Australians will be quarantined in a Perth hotel for two weeks.
On Australia’s east coast, paramedics evacuated three crew members overnight from a cruise ship that has become Australia’s largest source of COVID-19 cases.
New South Wales state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the three patients are not Australian citizens and were taken from the Ruby Princess, which is anchored off the Sydney coast, to a Sydney hospital with the help of water police.
Authorities have been criticized for allowing 2,700 passengers and crew to disembark from the ship when it docked in Sydney on March 19 despite COVID-19 test results remaining unknown.
Many of the passengers traveled interstate and overseas before the health risk was known.
More than 300 people have contracted the virus from the ship, including two women aged 77 and 75 who have died.