The head of WA’s peak medical body says Albany’s older population puts the city at greater risk of tragedy when COVID-19 inevitably spreads to the south coast of the State. As the number of infected people grows around the country, Australian Medical Association (WA) president Dr Andrew Miller has stressed the disease will reach Albany at some point. While the mortality rate of COVID-19 for ages 10-39 is an estimated 0.2 per cent, that figure rockets to 8 per cent for ages 70-79 and 14.8 per cent for over-80s. At the 2016 Census, Albany had a median age of 43, compared to the Statewide median of 36. Albany’s 70-plus population was 14.7 per cent, compared to 7.3 per cent across WA and four per cent in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, a regional city of comparable size. A side effect of the global outbreak has been an influx of additional cruise-ship visits to Albany, with an extra 10 visits scheduled in the coming months. Those visits will bring in more than 10,000 tourists, diverted from other international destinations because of the crisis. The positive news for the economy has also generated concerns among some residents the disease could be brought to Albany via the ships, after the Diamond Princess in Japan became an international flashpoint for the outbreak. Yesterday, the US State Department advised residents not to travel by cruise ship. The Sun Princess cruise ship is scheduled to reach Albany Port tomorrow after stops in Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka and several African countries. The Sun Princess was refused entry to Madagascar last month on the grounds that 14 days had not passed since its previous stopover in Thailand. The ship was then met with violent protests at Reunion Island on March 1. As of yesterday, there were no COVID-19 clinics in regional WA, meaning if an Albany resident was to suspect they had the disease, their only option would be to go to hospital or to a GP. Dr Miller said more needed to be done to prepare Albany for the detection of the disease. “We accept that this bug is going to make it into the Albany community at some stage,” he said. “You can’t stop it forever. “The longer we can delay it, the more we have time to prepare and the more we can spread out the peak of cases so that they don’t all come up at once and are spread out over a year. “We can handle them if they are spread out over a year, but if they come up at Albany hospital on one weekend, then we can’t handle it. “The older you are, the worse it is, and it places a burden on the health system there and the population there more so because of that.” Dr Miller has urged the State Government to provide doctors and nurses with more supplies before the infection rate escalates. “The problem is at the moment we are not sure that the doctors and nurses on the front line have as much gear as they are going to need,” he said. “While the hospital might be OK, a lot of these people — in the absence of a COVID or fever clinic — are going to present to their GP. “You’ve got reception staff, nurses, other patients, doctors, and we need to protect our healthcare workforce because we are going to need them for a marathon ahead.” Dr Miller said a COVID-19 clinic in Albany was especially warranted given the high elderly population, the expected influx of tourists, and the size of the Great Southern region. “It is not expensive to do and not hard to set up,” he said. “You whack them outside in a carpark somewhere and you have staff there who have the gear they need. The beauty of that is that those staff will be expecting one type of patient, which will be someone with a fever who has probably travelled.” Albany Port is due to receive another seven cruise ships by the end of this month. A Southern Ports spokeswoman said all cruise ships visiting Albany would already have stopped at another Australian port. “The Federal Government have implemented strict protocols for people travelling into Australia from high-risk areas, and these protocols also apply to cruise ship passengers,” she said. “Since the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been an increase in cruise ships visiting Albany, as ships are rerouting to avoid passages in higher-risk areas. “Albany is not the first Australian port of call.” It is understood Australian Border Force manages cruise-ship screening protocols. As of 4pm yesterday, ABF had not provided details of screening protocols as requested by the Albany Advertiser last week. Last Thursday, the Advertiser submitted queries to the WA Health Department about COVID-19 precautions and other arrangements at Albany Health Campus. WA Health had not responded by 4pm yesterday.