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Cruise ship passenger dies of virus in WA

A cruise ship passenger in his 70s has died of COVID-19 in Western Australia, taking the national coronavirus toll to 13.

It is the second death in WA from the virus, where the total number of confirmed cases has risen to 231 after 26 new cases were announced on Thursday.

Of these 26 cases, four are passengers from cruise ships including the Ruby Princess, Sun Princess and Voyager of the Seas.

Meanwhile, the WA government insists the Commonwealth must manage seven coronavirus cases aboard the Artania anchored off Perth and help make the cruise ship leaves.

WA health authorities boarded the vessel on Wednesday after it asked for assistance, reporting passengers had respiratory symptoms.

The seven confirmed cases are not in a critical condition and remain on the vessel.

On top of those cases, a further two passengers are unwell and may have COVID-19.

There are no Australians on the vessel or on the cruise ship Magnifica, which is also anchored off WA and not allowed to dock, but does not have any reported cases.

Any infected passengers with a life-threatening emergency could only go to a federal government facility such as a defence force base, Premier Mark McGowan said, but the Artania must continue on to its next port in South Africa "urgently".

"This ship needs to leave immediately," he told reporters on Thursday.

"The main thing we want is the ship gone."

He said the seven cases were all European, largely German, and urged the federal government to consider arranging mercy flights with their home country.

"The ship and its passengers are a Commonwealth responsibility."

Mr McGowan said photos of passengers gathered close to each other on the deck showed they were "flouting the advice".

Health Minister Roger Cook confirmed 26 new cases in WA, including a seven-year-old child, who is self-isolating, and four cases from cruise ships including the Ruby Princess.

One-quarter of the state's total cases had been on a cruise.

Mr Cook said 23 cases had recovered.

He also announced allowing pharmacists to write prescriptions for one month's worth of medication.

Meanwhile, the Vasco da Gama, which was scheduled to arrive in Fremantle on Friday, has been told to hold off until Monday while Rottnest Island is prepared as a 14-day quarantine zone for about 200 West Australians.

As for roughly 600 other Australians on the cruise ship, Mr McGowan said he was in talks with their home states about bringing them back to free up capacity on Rottnest.

"We would prefer they go home and self-isolate in their home state," he said.

The WA government says all foreigners, including 108 New Zealanders, will remain on board until they can fly home.

But Dean Brazier, managing director of the ship's owner Cruise and Maritime Voyages Australia, said they all held visas to reside in either Australia or New Zealand.

Mr Brazier said there were no reported health issues among those on board, who will have been at sea for 16 days by Monday.

© AAP 2020

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