‘Serious mistakes’ made by Australian authorities in cruise ship coronavirus outbreak, inquiry finds

At least 900 Covid-19 cases were linked to passengers who disembarked

Helen Coffey
Monday 17 August 2020 16:42 BST

Australian authorities made “serious mistakes” in dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus on board a cruise ship, an independent inquiry has found.

The Ruby Princess, a Princess Cruises vessel, docked in Sydney in March after an 11-day cruise to New Zealand.

The ship’s 2,650 passengers were permitted to leave the ship once it had docked in Australia without being tested for Covid-19, despite there being suspected cases onboard.

Travellers proceeded to take public transport plus domestic and international flights to return home.

Ultimately, the cruise was linked to at least 900 coronavirus cases and 28 deaths.

Although those on board who were suspected of being infected were given swab tests for Covid on 19 March, the day the ship docked, results were not made available immediately – a fact that was branded “inexcusable” by the inquiry.

In the meantime, all passengers without symptoms were allowed to disembark as normal, as New South Wales health authorities had categorised the Ruby Princess as “low risk”.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like having a loved one – or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result – and I want to apologise unreservedly,” said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales, reports Travel Weekly.

Despite mistakes having been made, the inquiry did not find evidence of “systemic” failures.

“There are no ‘systemic’ failures to address. Put simply, despite the best efforts of all, some serious mistakes were made,” read the report.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected, particularly those who lost loved ones,” said Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia group president Jan Swartz.

“The commission’s report confirms that none of our people – the captain, the ship’s doctor, or members of our shore side port agency team – misled public authorities involved in Ruby Princess being permitted to disembark guests on 19 March.

“This finding is of great importance to us because it goes to the integrity of our people. 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.”

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