National

Virus cases from stranded sheep ship surge

By AAP Newswire

Coronavirus cases among crew from a livestock ship stranded at a Western Australian port have surged to 20, but it is not clear if test results for port and quarantine workers who boarded the ship have come in.

The Al Kuwait docked in Fremantle on May 22 with 48 crew on board.

All but 10 are in quarantine in a Perth hotel, and the remaining skeleton crew have tested negative but may be tested again, Health Minister Roger Cook says.

The health department said on Friday only five of seven workers who boarded the ship, including a Fremantle Port Authority pilot and a trainee who steered the vessel into harbour, were considered close contacts and there were no positive results "to date".

All were wearing personal protective equipment.

Sanitising of the ship began on Thursday.

With the northern summer live export ban beginning on Monday, the scramble to get 56,000 sheep that were bound for the vessel to the Middle East is on and will require an exemption by the federal agriculture department.

The animals are in feedlots and sending them to local abattoirs is considered a last resort.

Talks are under way to use the Awassi Express, now named the Anna Marra, to export the sheep.

It could mean the sheep are transported sooner so they avoid extreme heat further into the northern summer.

Ironically, that vessel sparked the ban following outrage over mass sheep deaths caused by heat stress on a 2017 journey.