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Australia: Spirit of Tasmania resumes services after positive COVID-19 test strands passengers

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Spirit of Tasmania services were suspended for almost two days after a contractor tested positive for coronavirus. (ABC News: Luke Bowden ) © Provided by ABC Health Spirit of Tasmania services were suspended for almost two days after a contractor tested positive for coronavirus. (ABC News: Luke Bowden )

After being stranded for almost 48 hours, hundreds of Spirit of Tasmania travellers are finally able to make their way across Bass Strait.

The two Spirit of Tasmania ferries had been stationary since Friday night after a contractor tested positive to COVID-19 in Melbourne.

Seventeen people — who all work below deck and away from passengers — were identified as close contacts of the confirmed case and had to test negative before Tasmanian health authorities would let the ships sail again.

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On Sunday afternoon, TT-Line confirmed it had been given the all-clear to resume operations.

"Spirit of Tasmania will sail from both ports tonight after receiving clearance from the health authorities," the company posted on its website.

In a statement, TT-Line CEO Bernard Dwyer said he was pleased passengers could depart.

"The delays particularly impacted passengers on the Victorian side who were advised not to leave Station Pier due to the current lockdown in Victoria," he said.

"In addition [to tonight's sailing], we have decided to schedule an additional day sailing departing both ports at 8:30am on Monday 27 September to ensure affected passengers can resume their travel as soon as possible, and freight deliveries arrive at their markets."

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The sailing clearance ends two "stressful" days for many travellers who had been stuck on different sides of Bass Strait — some in Devonport, others in Port Melbourne.

Chris Duffield, his seven-year-old son and their dog were on Friday night's sailing from Melbourne to Devonport when it got turned around 2 hours into the journey due to the coronavirus scare.

"We're relocating to Hobart, so we're coming across as essential travelers, as I've got a job in Hobart ," Mr Duffield said.

"My wife and two daughters flew in on Saturday and I'm in the Kombi, with the trailer and enough food for 14 days quarantine and all of our clothes.

"So, my wife and two daughters are quarantining, waiting for us to come across with all our stuff."

Mr Duffield said his family were relocating from Victoria on approved Good to Go Essential Traveller quarantine passes.

Due to coming from a hot spot area, Mr Duffield, his son and their dog stayed in land-based accommodation each night and returned to Station Pier each morning to prepare to set sail.

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Passengers and TT-Line had expected to get the all-clear to sail on Saturday night, but COVID test results took longer to receive than expected.

Another traveller from South Australia, who wanted to be called Anna, stayed in her car on Station Pier and in her cabin on the Spirit since Friday night to avoid being classified as coming from Victoria.

She said it had been a stressful situation, but Spirit staff had been great.

"They supplied pies and pasties for us for lunch yesterday and sandwiches … they had a cooked meal for us last night on the boat which we went and got and came back to our rooms and ate," she said.

"It's been a wait but will be worth it."

Travelers from low-risk destinations are still allowed to enter Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania without having to quarantine — as long at they have only stopped for fuel while transiting through high-risk areas.

'You've got to be kind'

On the other side of Bass Strait, Peter and Maxine Pickrell were stranded in Devonport for 48 hours.

The couple were due to start heading home to South Australia on Friday with their caravan, but the situation delayed their plans.

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However, the couple stayed in high spirits.

"We're ready to go home but you know, you've got to smile, you've got to be kind — they're struggling, so you've got to be kind," Mrs Pickrell said.

Mr Pickrell said TT-Line had been "good" to affected Devonport travellers.

"Complimentary breakfast this morning when we got off and they've kept us informed," Mr Pickrell said.

"They've sent us a couple of texts and said you'll be first on when we get going again, so there's no dramas."

TT-Line crew who were identified as close contacts will need to quarantine for 14 days and be tested regularly.

Eleven of the close contacts working on the Spirit I vessel are now in Tasmania. Six, who work the Spirit II, are quarantining in Melbourne.

TT-Line said passengers could change their bookings at no cost or get a full refund under its COVID policy.

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