Ruby Princess’s damn investigation points to the ‘unforgivable’ and ‘inexplicable’ mistakes that left more than 20 dead and led to an explosion of cases in Australia
- The special commission of inquiry into Ruby Princess released the findings on Friday
- The ship arrived in Sydney in March and numerous infected people disembarked
- Cruise has been linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than 20 deaths
Authorities have made serious mistakes by failing to test a new classification of suspected coronavirus passengers aboard the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship.
That is one of the many findings of a special commission of inquiry into the ship’s arrival in Sydney on March 19, when numerous infectious people disembarked at Circular Quay and subsequently spread the virus across Australia and overseas.
After weeks of hearing evidence, the special commission of inquiry, commissioned by the NSW government, released its findings on Friday.
The report noted that on March 10, the Australian Communicable Diseases Network changed its guidelines to require testing everyone on board the ship with newly defined suspected cases.
Authorities have made serious mistakes by failing to test a new classification of suspected coronavirus passengers on board the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship
Pictured: Cruise ship passengers disembark at Ruby Princess in Sydney on March 19
But when a risk assessment was conducted on March 18, those making decisions did not have the updated definition of a ‘suspicious case’.
“This was a serious and material error,” the committee concluded.
The Ruby Princess has been linked to hundreds of cases and more than 20 deaths from the coronavirus across Australia.
The ship – which was short on medical supplies and cotton swabs for COVID-19 testing due to shortages – left Sydney for New Zealand on March 8 and returned 11 days later.
Despite the respiratory symptoms of numerous people on board and uncertainty about the test results, 2,700 passengers were allowed to disembark because the trip was considered low risk by NSW health authorities.
This is because only 0.94 percent of passengers reported to the ship’s medical center with flu-like symptoms – not the percentage needed to mandate NSW Health intervention – and none of the passengers have entered the virus-stricken countries Visited China, Italy, Iran or South Korea.
Pictured: Ruby Princess docks in Port Kembla, south of Sydney, amid a police investigation
Passengers got out before the results of 13 accelerated tests showed that at least three people had the virus.
Bret Walker SC was tasked with investigating the ship’s departure, arrival and disembarkation and held hearings for 21 days from April to July.
Separate NSW police and coronial investigations of the Ruby Princess are underway and are not expected to report for another month.
Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian confirmed she received the report on Friday and chose to release it immediately.
“The NSW government would like to thank Commissioner Bret Walker SC and his team for their hard work on the Ruby Princess Special Commission of Inquiry,” she said in a statement.
‘I just received the report. In the public interest and for full transparency, I release it immediately.
“I’ll read it over the weekend and respond early next week.”
The Ruby Princess has been linked to hundreds of cases and more than 20 deaths from the coronavirus across Australia
Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco
18th of March: The Ruby Princess issues an urgent emergency call for an ambulance for two of its passengers with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney.
March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbor. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
March 25: Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for disembarking coronavirus patients.
29 March: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are sick and in self-isolation.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force, pointing the finger at the Ruby Princess. She alleges that staff on board have misled NSW Health about the extent of passenger illness.
April 3rd: Home Secretary Peter Dutton claims that Ruby Princess operators were not transparent about the health of the crew: ‘It was’ clear that some companies have lied about the health of passengers and crew on board’.
April 4: Leaked emails show that NSW Health was aware of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before the thousands of passengers could disembark.
April 5th: A criminal investigation is underway into how passengers could disembark without a health check
April 8: A team of 30 state crime, counterterrorism and marine investigators begin investigating the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal. The first briefing on the investigation takes place.
April 9: NSW police, dressed in PPE, raid the ship, question the captain and look for evidence in a rapid escalation of the criminal investigation.
11 April: NSW Health confirms that at least 46 Ruby Princess cruise ship crew members have contracted COVID-19
13th of April: NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller Says Patient Zero Onboard May Be A Crew Member Serving Meals To Hundreds Of Passengers
15 of April: NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian Announces Independent Special Commission To Investigate Ruby Princess Fiasco
April 23: With 500 crew remaining on board, the Ruby Princess left Australian waters to sail to Manila in the Philippines