Cruise ships add to increasing number of Covid-19 cases but by how much?

WA recorded 6874 new Covid-19 cases in the week ending November 3 up by 1051 from the previous reporting period. File picture

THE number of new cases of Covid-19 reported by the Department of Health yesterday increased again and some can be attributed to visiting cruise ships but it is not possible to report exactly how many.

When releasing its latest update yesterday WA Health said the latest reporting period included Covid-19 cases diagnosed onboard cruise ships in WA (during the same time frame), resulting in a bigger increase in cases then would be expected on current trends.

The update said there were 6874 new cases recorded in the week ending November 3 – an increase of 1051 from the 5823 new cases in the week to October 26 and prior to that in the week to October 20 WA Health reported a total of 4931 new cases.

But the WA data only includes a total figure of new cases with no breakdown of where the cases came from.

One of the cruise ships involved the Coral Princess, which is due to arrive in Sydney on Tuesday, November 8 (with about 2895 passengers and crew) is listed as Tier 2 in the NSW government update on cruise vessel Covid-19 status for November 4.

The update defines Tier 2 as a moderate impact with quite a few cases on board (30-99 positive cases per 1000 people) and the vessel’s staffing or resources are impacted but it can safely maintain critical services.

Similarly the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) national guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of Covid-19 outbreaks on cruise ships in Australia says Tier 2 means 3-10 per cent of those on board are positive Covid-19 cases.

Yanchep News Online contacted Princess Cruises to confirm the number of cases on the Coral Princess during the reporting period but a spokeswoman said it was not their practice to release case numbers independently of health authorities.

Another cruise ship, which Yanchep News Online understands also reported Covid-19 cases to the Department of Health during the most recent reporting period, has so far not responded when asked for confirmation.

According to the Fremantle Ports voyager port management system the Queen Elizabeth (with about 2500 passengers) will be in Fremantle on Monday, November 7.

The eastern seaboard and Western Australian cruise protocols set out further public health measures at Tier 2 and Tier 3 (defined as more than 10 per cent Covid-19 positive) for cruise lines to implement in response to growing case numbers onboard.

Under the protocols cruise lines must report Covid-19 cases to the jurisdictional health authorities 12 – 24 hrs prior to arrival, or as required by the specific jurisdiction.

The WA Department of Health said the cruise ship cases were identified through enhanced surveillance processes and there was no severe disease or deaths associated with those cases.

On November 3 Yanchep News Online reported WA’s chief health officer Andy Robertson as saying some indications had appeared in late October that WA may be in the early stages of another Covid-19 wave

On November 4 WA Health said 17 deaths, dating back to September 23, had been reported in the past week, of people aged from 67 to 96 years.

During the period ending October 26 there were 19 deaths reported, dating back to 13 September 13, of people aged from 73 to 99 years.

In the week to October 20 there were three deaths recorded, of people aged from 71 to 89 years, dating back to September 14.