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TEN crew members from a COVID-stricken ship anchored off Weipa are being relocated to COVID wards in hospitals in southeast Queensland.

In total, 19 of the bulk carrier bulk carrier MV Sanyu’s crew tested positive for COVID-19.

Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Angus Mitchell told DCN that MSQ was alerted to the sick crewmembers on Monday while the vessel was at anchor off Goods Island.

Two Queensland Health nurses flew by helicopter to the vessel to conduct COVID-19 tests on the crew, which returned positive results for 19 of the crew.

The vessel was directed to Weipa, as the best option for the immediate management of the vessel.

The decision was then taken to transfer 10 of the crew to hospitals in southeast Queensland. Five crew departed on Wednesday evening, and five on Thursday morning on Retrieval Services Queensland flights.

“Transfer of the COVID-positive crew will be undertaken under strict infection control processes to ensure no risk is posed to the Queensland community,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Queensland health have undertaken clinical assessment to prioritise which crew are removed from the vessel.”

Eleven crew are to remain onboard to ensure the safety of the vessel, and Mr Mitchell said.

“If we need to take them off the ship too, we’ll have a crew there to monitor the ship while it’s at anchor,” he said.

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Mr Mitchell said MSQ has already handled at least 11 ships with COVID onboard in Queensland.

“This one is more challenging for three reasons. One, the delta strain; two, the vessel’s remoteness; and three because of the medical capability in the far north,” he said.

“We’re not waiting for the crew to get sick enough to need hospitalisation, we’re just getting them to southeast Queensland where they can be monitored better. The health of all the crew members remains of the utmost importance.”

At the time of writing, Queensland Health had yet to confirm that the variant present on the ship was the delta strain.

All the crew are Philippine nationals. The vessel’s last port was Manila on 13 July, when 10 people joined the ship.

The ship was en-route to Cape Flattery, where it was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

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