x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Swine flu ship allowed to dock

A cruise ship held off northeastern Australia amid fears of a swine flu outbreak was today allowed to dock under emergency decree.

Cruise ship the Pacific Dawn in November 2007 as it sails past the Sydney Opera House in Sydney.
Cruise ship the Pacific Dawn in November 2007 as it sails past the Sydney Opera House in Sydney.

A cruise ship held off northeastern Australia amid fears of a swine flu outbreak was today allowed to dock under emergency decree, as the number of confirmed cases there passed 250. Queensland state health authorities were forced to declare a public health emergency after management at the Brisbane city port refused to let the Pacific Dawn dock and release passengers. State health minister Paul Lucas signed an emergency decree forcing the port to allow the P&O liner to berth at the Portside Wharf, AAP newswire reported.

"The order gave us the power to override them and allow the ship to dock," a spokeswoman for Mr Lucas said. The Pacific Dawn has been at the centre of a spike in the number of Australian swine flu cases after 2,000 passengers last weekend walked free from the ship despite a suspected swine flu outbreak on board. Scores of guests have since tested positive for the virus, and are believed to be behind its rapid community spread, with cases jumping from 14 to 254 in just one week.

The ship was turned away from the Whitsunday Islands and northern tourist port of Cairns this week, after three crew fell ill with the A (H1N1) influenza with a fresh group of 2,000 passengers on board. Only 150 Queensland residents were allowed to disembark today at Brisbane, after the state invoked strict quarantine powers banning non-residents from entry. Seven passengers who were tested for swine flu were cleared, but all those who left the ship were required to wear masks and be examined by a nurse, officials said.

Anyone showing flu-like symptoms was swabbed and offered a course of antiviral drug, and 83 passengers who disembarked were ordered to join thousands of other Australians in self-quarantine for seven days. The Pacific Dawn has sailed on to Sydney, where the chief medical officer was today given tough new powers to enforce quarantine with police assistance, and extend isolation periods to up to 14 days.

* AFP