This is an unfolding scandal from which some pretty severe penalties should flow.
The Australian reports that on 8 March, Ruby Princess docked in Sydney with 158 sick passengers on board, 13 with high fevers.
Those illnesses were logged on the automated online Australian Government Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS).
Despite that, when quizzed about the status of his ship the master emailed Sydney port authority officials to report no illnesses on board, everyone was OK to disembark.
- Sydney port officials told there was no one sick on Ruby Princess cruise ship despite 158 passengers reporting ill
- Sick passengers allowed to disembark and potentially spread infection throughout state capital
- At least four passengers tested positive after ship docked in Sydney Harbour
- 2700 new passengers boarded ship following outbreak onboard cruise liner amid accusations of negligence
- Two more COVID-19 cases in the NT traced to Ruby Princess
A cruise ship that docked in Sydney with four confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday had previously been sailing with 158 sick passengers on board — including 13 with high temperatures — who disembarked at Circular Quay before the vessel left for New Zealand with nearly 4,000 on board.
The Ruby Princess returned to Sydney 11 days later — on Thursday, March 19 — with four confirmed cases of coronavirus; health officials are now urgently trying to track down passengers who were allowed to disperse into the community.
Two more confirmed cases in the Northern Territory have been traced to passengers from the Ruby Princess.
The infections were found in a couple who disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship and then flew to the Top End capital, before testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
Questions are now being raised over why the Ruby Princess was permitted to leave Sydney for New Zealand without undergoing quarantining or disinfection — it was carrying 2,700 new passengers and 1,100 crew members when it set sail, just hours after 158 sick people disembarked the ship.
Further concerns are being raised over the conduct of the Ruby Princess’s master. An email sent by the Port Authority of NSW, and obtained by The Weekend Australian, revealed that when the Ruby Princess arrived in Sydney on March 8 its captain told NSW Vessel Traffic Services there were “no ill passengers or crew on board”.
This is despite the ship logging its 158 unwell passengers through the Federal Government’s biosecurity management portal, known as MARS, or the Maritime Arrivals Reporting Systems. Breaching then MARS is an offence under the Biosecurity Act, according to its website.
Nine tests were subsequently conducted on the sick passengers for COVID-19, all of which returned a negative result. The illness is known to be asymptomatic or mild in some people, who can transmit the infection to those around them.
“Our great concern in this situation is that we placed a pilot on board the vessel without being able to provide him with advice about the potential for COVID-19 cases,” the email, dated March 13, and signed by a Port Authority General Manager, stated. “Further, it raised concerns about whether we can, in general, rely on the declaration from the Master of the vessel.”
Now it looks like Ruby Princess may be about to become our problem - again.
As I write she's at anchor just out to sea from Sydney.
Can't imagine it will be a warm welcome for her Master.