Ships moored off Hay Point waiting to be loaded with coal.
Ships moored off Hay Point waiting to be loaded with coal.

Maritime COVID-19 exemption ‘massive risk’ for Mackay

CIVIC leaders are outraged federal maritime exemptions allow foreign coal ship crew members to fly into Mackay and the Whitsundays without having to quarantine on arrival in Australia.

"This is just an unacceptable outcome," Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said.

"It puts our region at massive risk."

Mayors Andrew Willcox and Greg Williamson are outraged by maritime exemptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayors Andrew Willcox and Greg Williamson are outraged by maritime exemptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under countrywide waivers, granted by the National Cabinet last month, foreign crew members travelling to Australia do not have to quarantine for 14 days at their arrival point.

The exemption states they "may be subject to additional screening by biosecurity".

 

It also allows crew members to take one or more domestic flights to the ship but states they "must self-isolate at their accommodation if they have a layover at any time".

It further states crews joining a vessel in Australia within 14 days "need to undertake appropriate precautions when interacting with others".

 

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Foreign coal ship crew members are exempt from the 14-day quarantine period on arrival in Australia.
Foreign coal ship crew members are exempt from the 14-day quarantine period on arrival in Australia.

Cr Williamson said this meant crew members from anywhere in the world could fly to Brisbane where "they may, not will be, may be subject to a biosecurity test" and hop on a flight to Mackay or the Whitsundays.

They then are transported from the airport to the ship at either Hay Point, Dalrymple Bay or Abbot Point.

"The exemption seems to have been granted on the grounds of keeping trade alive and keeping the wheels of industry turning," he said.

Coal ships queue in Dalrymple Bay waiting to load at Mackay.
Coal ships queue in Dalrymple Bay waiting to load at Mackay.

"But every other industry in Australia has learned to live with the restrictions of COVID-19 in terms of business operation."

The Mackay-Whitsunday region has had only 15 positive cases since the outbreak in Australia began, all of whom have recovered.

There has been no community transmission, with all patients either overseas travellers or a close companion, and from Saturday there will be further statewide lockdown relaxations.

With all the safeguards in place to stop COVID coming in from overseas, where all the major hot spots were, Cr Williamson said the maritime industry now posed the greatest risk for coastal regions with no active cases.

Whitsunday Coast Airport.
Whitsunday Coast Airport.

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said the exemption "beggars belief".

"In the Whitsundays one in three jobs is tourism-related … and (they) are being decimated by COVID-19," Cr Willcox said.

"We can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, but then to have the unnecessary risk placed on us where you can have people coming straight in from overseas … it is totally unacceptable."

Cr Williamson said he had raised his concern with the Premier and the Premier's Director-General.

"We will now write … to the Chief Health Officer for Australia and outline our serious concerns at this outrageous decision," he said.


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