On the 19th of March, the Ruby Princess Cruise Ship was allowed to dock at Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia and all 2700 passengers were given the green light to disembark although 13 passengers had exhibited virus symptoms before reaching Sydney. Out of those 13 passengers who initially showed COVID-19 symptoms, 4 ultimately tested positive to the virus. Now, 15 of Australia’s 51 deaths have been Ruby Princess passengers. So how were the passengers and crew allowed to leave the ship before the test results were known?
The primary issue is communication. What messages were passed between the Ruby Princess, the cruise ship company, the NSW Government and the Port Authority? These are the areas being scrutinised by a homicide investigation announced by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
Recent discoveries have found that an Australian Border Force officer told a Sydney harbourmaster to allow the Ruby Princess to dock, despite the ship having as many as 140 passengers in isolation on board. The officer was worried about the number of people in isolation, so the harbourmaster suggested docking the ship at Bradley’s Head instead of entering into Sydney Harbour. According to current sources, after checking with a supervisor, the Border Force officer allowed the ship to dock in Sydney Harbour.
Why was this decision made? After already witnessing the debacle of the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan surely every measure would be taken to ensure that all passengers were cleared of the virus? This should never have occurred, and it has already resulted in the loss of life for 15 individuals. This is an utterly preventable situation.
The question remains whether the Carnival company or crew were transparent in conceptualising the actual patient and crew health conditions regarding COVID-19 infection. This is the first step in determining who is at fault for this severe action. If they passed on false information to manipulate the opinions of Australian officials, then they must take full responsibility.
However, if all the appropriate information was provided to Australian officials, we must learn from this situation and ensure that it cannot happen again. Government ministers and other officials have tried their best to distance themselves from the matter and appeal for innocence, but there needs to be answers.
NSW Health has questions to answer. Leaked email exchanges show health officials appear not to have asked officers on the Ruby Princess whether passengers had travelled to many of the countries that were designated high and medium risk. Instead, they only requested whether passengers had been through China or Iran in the last 2 weeks or South Korea after March 5th, 2020. Although the cruise ship clearly stated about a few cases of virus symptoms, the vessel was cleared to disembark without an onboard assessment.
The blame game has become so extreme that it has now required a police investigation. This is severely disappointing. Carnival, NSW Health and other Commonwealth agencies have been unable to work together, and none of these groups has been able to put up their hand and acknowledge their failure. These are child-like actions which you see in a primary school playground, blaming others and pleading innocence to not get a detention.
Grow up, these are human lives, not a game of handball.