Australia awaits findings on cruise ship coronavirus outbreak

14 August, 2020 | Australia News
A fishing boat sails past the Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess cruise ship as it docks in Manila Bay during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cavite city, Philippines, May 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/ File Photo)

MELBOURNE – The findings of a public inquiry into how passengers infected with the novel coronavirus were allowed to disembark a cruise ship in Sydney in March, triggering a major outbreak, are set to be handed down today.

The government of New South Wales (NSW) state commissioned the probe into the events leading up to the disembarkation of 2,700 passengers from the Carnival Corp-owned Ruby Princess on March 17 without proper screening for the virus.

Passengers from the ship spread the virus across the country and internationally, resulting in more than 600 cases and 20 deaths in what was at the time Australia‘s largest outbreak of the disease.

The inquiry has heard evidence from medics, cruise ship executives and senior staff from the state’s health department.

Some testimony pointed to confusion between state and federal authorities over who bore final responsibility.

NSW officials rated the liner as “low risk” since it had only visited New Zealand, although some passengers had flown in from countries including the United States, the inquiry heard.

The inquiry’s findings could put pressure on senior officials in the state and federal governments to take responsibility for the failures.

Australia was quick to bring the first wave of infection under control but a second wave since June in the state of Victoria has proven far deadlier.

Victoria reported 14 deaths and 372 new cases  today, a jump of nearly 100 infections from the previous day which was the lowest in more than three weeks.

Even so, the trend in Victoria is positive and cases are well down from their peak of 725 on August 5, thanks to a hard lockdown in the city of Melbourne now in its second week.

The latest cases bring the tally in Australia since the pandemic began to 22,739 infections and 375 deaths, mostly in Victoria. Outside the two most populous states of NSW and Victoria, the virus has been effectively eliminated.

NSW reported just nine new cases today.