Ruby Princess’s doctor told authorities that there was NO coronavirus on board before docking in Sydney
Ruby Princess doctor told authorities there was NO coronavirus risk on the cruise ship now linked to 21 COVID-19 deaths
- The special investigation committee on the Ruby Princess started on Wednesday
- There have been 19 deaths in Australia and approximately 700 infections from the ship
- Doctor marked ‘no’ on a maritime arrivals notification form in response to a question of whether there was a possible spread of infection from the vessel
- Here’s how you can help people affected by Covid-19
The doctor on board the Ruby Princess told authorities that there was no risk of coronavirus infection on the ill-fated cruise ship when it arrived in Sydney, a study finds.
The Special Investigation Committee on the Ruby Princess heard on Wednesday that Dr. Ilse Von Watzdorf had marked “no” in response to a question on a maritime arrivals report form as to whether there was a possible spread of infection or disease from the ship .
Another question about the breathing difficulties and persistent cough symptoms form was left blank as the ship, which has so far been associated with 21 COVID-19 deaths and up to 700 infections, docked in Sydney on March 19.
Dr. Ilse Von Watzdorf is shown as evidence of the special investigative committee on the cruise ship Ruby Princess
Crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship now leave the ship on April 21, 2020, which was docked in Port Kembla for more than two weeks after a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak.
When asked by Commissioner Bret Walker SC why she responded “no” to the question when 24 passengers reported high temperatures, Dr. Von Watzdorf said she felt “at a disadvantage” because she did not have access to the form during the interrogation.
But she suggested that she hadn’t wanted to convey at the time that there were no passengers displaying COVID-19 symptoms on board.
Dr. Von Watzdorf also told the opening day of the investigation that she was surprised that the ship was allowed to unload its 2,700 passengers before the coronavirus test results were received.
“If it had been my decision, I might have waited like last time,” she said, answering questions via video link from the ship docked at Port Kembla, where she will be staying with hundreds of crew.
She confirmed that the disease aboard the ship was increasing later in the voyage, saying that a questionnaire was sent to all passengers after acute respiratory and fever illnesses flared up around March 15.
Mr. Walker asked Dr. Von Watzdorf if it was correct to say that there were no passengers who showed COVID-19 symptoms late on March 18 and early on March 19, to which the doctor replied no.
A crew member of the cruise ship Ruby Princess leaves the ship on Tuesday
Ruby Princess (pictured on Sunday morning) is quarantined in Port Kembla in Wollongong until health officials figure out how to get everyone home safely
Australian military members assist in the repatriation of Ruby Princess crew members
When asked about the signs of COVID-19 on the ship during the same period, said Dr. Von Watzdorf said that she did not have a single word of answer for the Commissioner and that context was needed.
The investigation will continue on Thursday. It parallels a police test that is expected to yield its findings by September.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said there was a lack of transparency from the prime minister who did not mention the start of the investigation during her press conference hours before it started.
“The reason I think this happened is because the Ruby Princess will be ordered off the coast of NSW tomorrow … and there are people on that ship who have to testify,” McKay said Wednesday.
About 57 crew disembarked on Tuesday and traveled to NSW hotels before being repatriated on international charter flights for the next three days.
Another 115 crew from nine countries disembarked on Wednesday.
Of this group, 94 tested negative for coronavirus and were taken to Sydney airport or a hotel to wait for flights to their home country, the NSW police said in a statement.
A total of 21 disembarking crew members tested positive for COVID-19 and were taken to hotels managed by NSW Health for a 14-day quarantine period.
“Strict protocols were maintained to ensure that the movement of these individuals did not pose a risk to the public,” said the NSW police.
Commissioner Mick Fuller said on Wednesday that Australian Border Commissioner Michael Outram had written a letter to cruise ship company Carnival Australia ordering the Ruby Princess to leave national waters at the end of Thursday.
“Nine people flew home last night, another 18 went home today and the rest will fly home the next two days,” Fuller said.
NSW Health is monitoring the situation.
The ship’s captain is coronavirus-free and can drive the ship.
The majority of the crew remained isolated on the ship and 190 of the crew were tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday evening.
Another 12 critically ill crew members infected with coronavirus have previously been taken to NSW hospitals.
Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco
18th of March: The Ruby Princess calls an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of her passengers who present 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 Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for getting coronavirus patients on board.
29 March: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after coronavirus has been diagnosed.
April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are ill and in isolation.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force and points the finger at the Ruby Princess. She claims that the personnel on board may 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 crew health: “It was ‘obvious that some companies lied about the health of passengers and crew on board’.
April 4: Leaked emails indicate that NSW Health was aware of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before thousands of passengers were able to disembark.
April 5th: A criminal investigation is underway into how passengers could disembark without health checks
April 8: A team of 30 state crime, counterterrorism and maritime command officers are investigating the treatment of the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal. The first briefing on the investigation is being held.
April 9: NSW police dressed in PPE equipment invades the ship, interrogates the captain and searches for evidence in a rapid escalation of the criminal investigation.
11 April: NSW Health confirms that at least 46 crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship have contracted COVID-19
13th of April: NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller says patient zero on board may have been a crew member serving meals to hundreds of passengers
15 of April: NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian Announces Independent Independent Commission To Investigate Ruby Princess Fiasco