SYDNEY, Australia - Australia has taken a hard line, turning away six cruise ships with thousands of people on board.
The ships, along with another 3 Australian-registered ships, are anchored off the New South Wales coast.
They have been ordered to return to their port of origin.
Once making overtures to cruise lines for ships to include Australian ports on their itineraries, these same cruise lines are now being shunned, with their passengers being treated like lepers.
While the world has been banding together in a spirit of cooperation, the Australian authorities have refused to allow the cruise ships to dock and to apply resources to screen, and in some cases quarantine passengers and crew, because they say it would 'flood their (health) system.'
"The reality is there are thousands of people on board these cruise ships that are not members of our state and if we take them in that could well flood our system unnecessarily. All the hard work we've done could be over," NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told a press conference on Tuesday in Sydney.
"These cruise ships have ports that aren't in Australia, are not in New South Wales. The Federal Government has issued warning notices for them to return to their ports of origin, and I think they should listen to those warnings," he said.
"We will continue to show humanitarian care to those who need it. We will continue to allow them to have fuel and food, but it is time for you to go to your port of origin."
"They don't pay taxes in Australia, they don't park their boats in Australia, their primary flags are often in the Caribbean in different islands. It's time to go home," the commissioner said.
As of Tuesday Australia has 4,557 cases of coronavirus. Nineteen deaths have been recorded including on the weekend, the first in the nation's capital of Canberra.
244,000 people have been tested for the virus in Australia.