COVID-19 port breach as WA tweaks borders

WA police are investigating whether port workers at Fremantle have breached health orders.
WA police are investigating whether port workers at Fremantle have breached health orders.

Western Australia's health minister has expressed frustration about a COVID-19 breach involving port workers as the state prepares for further border tweaks.

Among a raft of changes from midnight on Wednesday, New Zealand will be subject to a hard border which denies entry to non-exempt travellers.

The hard border to Queensland will come down but arrivals will still need to self-quarantine for 14 days under "low risk" settings.

South Australians will move to very low risk with arrivals no longer required to quarantine, while NSW will move to previously-announced "extreme risk" restrictions.

WA Health is continuing to manage 20 infected crew members aboard the MV Ken Hou cargo ship docked at Fremantle Port.

Two crew members who tested negative have been removed and placed into hotel quarantine.

It comes as police investigate a breach involving port workers at Fremantle who were photographed not wearing face masks while unloading a vessel.

Others were photographed in close proximity to a foreign seafarer who was also not wearing personal protective equipment.

"It's very disappointing," Health Minister Roger Cook told reporters.

"WA Police have been made aware of that particular incident, they're investigating and obviously sanctions will apply in the event that they're found to be appropriate."

Port company Qube said workers had been cautioned about removing their masks too early when leaving ships.

"Employees have been informed to ensure masks are worn until they are well clear of vessels," the company said in a statement.

"Employees who were identified to have removed their masks early have undertaken COVID testing and will isolate in compliance with WA Health orders until they receive a negative result."

The company accused the maritime union of undertaking surveillance of Qube workers and contacting the police "in order to cause further unrest for the organisation" amid an ongoing industrial dispute between the two parties.

Maritime Union of Australia WA branch secretary Will Tracey urged the government to suspend Qube's stevedoring licence.

"Qube has put the entire West Australian community at risk, threatening lives, the ongoing operation of our industry, and the broader economy through their reckless breaches of COVID safety measures," he said.

The union has threatened to stop work at Fremantle Port for 14 days from September 1.

More than 2500 West Australians have returned home from NSW over the past week ahead of the state moving to "extreme risk" from Thursday.

Entry from NSW will be restricted to Commonwealth, state and specialist officials, who will be forced to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days.

West Australians will no longer be permitted entry on compassionate grounds.

"Over 900 cases (on Wednesday) is a significant deterioration of the situation in NSW," Mr Cook said.

"I'm very pleased that we've been able to welcome over 2000 West Aussies home as part of the compassionate arrangements."

Australian Associated Press