Virus ship-bound WA sheep still in limbo

Crew members of the live sheep export ship Al-Kuwait have tested positive for coronavirus.
Crew members of the live sheep export ship Al-Kuwait have tested positive for coronavirus.

Thousands of sheep that were bound for a coronavirus-infected livestock vessel remain in limbo, as Western Australia recorded another new COVID-19 infection, taking the tally of active cases in the state to 29.

The woman, aged in her 30s, recently returned to WA from the Middle East and is in hotel quarantine.

WA now has four local cases, five from interstate and 20 from the plagued Al Kuwait vessel, which remains docked at Fremantle Port. One person from the ship is at Royal Perth Hospital.

A northern summer ban on live exports to or through the Middle East started on Monday, sparked by thousands of sheep dying from heat stress aboard the Awassi Express in 2017.

Transporting 56,000 sheep that were to sail on the Al Kuwait, which are currently in a feedlot, requires a federal exemption to the ban.

The WA government wants them transported as soon as possible and ironically, one of the options is using the Awassi Express, now named the Anna Marra, which is near the Fremantle coast.

Premier Mark McGowan told reporters a ship would likely arrive to take the sheep, but said he did not know the name of the vessel.

The Al Kuwait cannot leave before June 13, he added.

A new historical COVID-19 case has also been confirmed in WA through serology testing.

The man, aged in his 40s from the Kimberley region, was a known contact of a positive case and was cleared from the virus in April.

Meanwhile, the state government has launched a $2 million local tourism campaign titled Wander Out Yonder.

Mr McGowan said the tourism industry had suffered enormously during the pandemic and his government wanted to encourage people to holiday at home.

"Our hard border means going east on holidays isn't an option, going overseas on holidays isn't an option," he said.

"But you can holiday right here in Western Australia and perhaps see some of those places you might not have seen for 20 years, or indeed might not ever have seen."

Mr McGowan said the Kimberley region, including tourist hub Broome, would reopen on Friday, pending federal government approval, but people would still be banned from remote Aboriginal communities.

He said he expected to leave the state's hard border closure in place for some time because it allowed WA to better open up its local economy.

Australian Associated Press