Coronavirus: 'Serious mistakes' made over Ruby Princess outbreak

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 16, 2020

The Ruby Princess cruise ship was allowed to dock in Sydney in March in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and allow almost 2,700 passengers to disembark.

He looked at the actions of Ruby Princess crew and ship operator Princess Cruises, as well as NSW Health, NSW Police and federal border and agriculture authorities.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was the source of hundreds of Australia's Coronavirus cases, departs Port Kembla, NSW, with its remaining crew.

The NSW public are being denied vital answers about the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle, with the limited terms of reference and a refusal to give evidence by federal public servants meaning the findings of the Special Commission of Inquiry will be fundamentally flawed.

But when a risk assessment was conducted on March 18, those making decisions did not have the updated definition of a "suspect case".

"The blame rests with NSW Health".

"This was a serious and material error", the commission found.

The travelers - some seen coughing and spluttering - were permitted to leave the ship at Sydney Harbour, capturing trains, buses and even overseas flights to get house.

The Ruby Princess had completed a Sydney-New Zealand round trip.

Despite the respiratory symptoms of numerous of those aboard and uncertainty surrounding test results, 2,700 passengers were permitted to disembark as the voyage had been deemed low risk by NSW health authorities.

Passengers disembarked before the results of 13 expedited tests showing at least three people had the virus. "Those swabs should have been tested immediately", the inquiry, led by high-profile lawyer Bret Walker, said in the report. However, Ruby Princess departed Sydney on March 8 with just 27 viral swabs in addition to a separate supply of rapid influenza testing kits.' The company should have ensured its medical staff were aware of changes to Communicable Diseases Network Australia's definition of a 'suspect case'.

"In our more than 20 years in Australia, we have always sought to cooperate honestly and professionally with officials in accordance with the regulatory environment", Jan Swartz, president of Carnival's Princess Cruises unit, said in a statement.

Despite concerns of a coronavirus outbreak on board, around 2700 passengers were allowed to disembark and continue their travel.

By the time NSW Health corrected the advice on 21 March, Mr Walker said it was "too late" as a considerable number of passengers - including some symptomatic ones - were already in transit.

The NSW government, the report says, "should have arranged suitable accommodation for all passengers who were not residents of the state".

Reflecting on the "sorry episode", Mr Walker said it would be "unhelpful" to make recommendations as they would not amount to much more than "do your job".

His report was handed to the NSW Government on Friday and released by Premier Gladys Berejiklian at 4pm.

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