Australia- Ruby Princess is the most deadly virus ship

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by themickey, Apr 8, 2020.

  1. themickey


    Call it the $5.2 billion question: will Ruby Princess sink the booming Australian cruise industry?

    Fiona Carruthers and Hannah Wootton Apr 8, 2020 – 6.17pm

    Jump on the website for Princess Cruises, and you'll see "balcony bonanza" deals aplenty, a cheerful gallery of #comebacknew guest moments, and the "more time for me time" campaign. Talk about a parallel universe.

    Analysis of Australia's COVID-19 fatalities as of Wednesday, April 8, show that Ruby Princess is officially the most deadly ship on the seas when it comes to the coronavirus.

    It's also now the subject of a criminal investigation known as Strike Force Bast, comprising a team of 30 detectives from across State Crime, Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics and Marine Area Commands.

    Now docked in Port Kembla south of Sydney, Ruby Princess is the subject of a criminal investigation. As of Wednesday, 15 passengers have died from COVID-19. AAP

    Cruise ships account for 21 of Australia's 50 confirmed virus deaths so far. Of these, 15 were Ruby Princess passengers, outstripping even Diamond Princess (its stablemate) on 12 deaths.

    Countless media reports have suggested it was clearly recorded that there were sick people aboard – including one passenger diagnosed with influenza and charged $454 for a consultation in the ship's medical clinic – before the Ruby Princess even passed through the Sydney Heads.

    The other COVID-19 cruise ship victims to die in Australia came from the Diamond Princess, Voyager of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice, Ovation of the Seas and the Artania.

    Cutting the figures another way, Ruby Princess passengers account for 30 per cent of Australia's 50 virus deaths and just under 10 per cent of the nation's 5900-plus confirmed cases.

    Call it the $5.2 billion question: but will Ruby Princess sink the booming Australian cruise industry? And if not, how will cruising stage a come back after its starring role in COVID-19?

    While rocked by the chain of events, industry leaders argue the cruise sector remains, to be blunt, too big, too powerful, and too popular not to recover, where its total economic impact worldwide is slated at $US130 billion ($211 billion).
    "Certainly it won't come back as strong as ever," says Tony Wheeler, who co-founded Lonely Planet, and is based between London and Melbourne.

    "Quite apart from the economic hit the cruise companies will take, even when this is over, many people will remain afraid that if something goes wrong, they'll be locked on a ghost ship endlessly circling the ocean looking for a port to take them.

    "That will be a big hurdle to overcome in people's minds. But from what I'm hearing, others will be happy to buy into the deal frenzy that will begin when this is over."

    Managing director of Cruise Traveller, Craig Bowen, has seen his bookings plummet 76 per cent for the month of March. Based in Queensland, he's spent three decades in the industry.

    "I'd be completely naive to say it hasn't had a negative impact on the entire sector; it has," says Bowen. "But we mainly deal with small and expedition ships of 100 to 300 people. Our guests would likely never take a big brand cruise anyway – it's like comparing the traveller who stays in a boutique hotel to the one who likes chains."

    On the upside, Bowen's bookings for 2021 cruises are tracking up 17 per cent, year on year.

    Can the cruise industry stage a comeback? Passengers aboard the Artania photographed in mid March. Nine

    "We've written off 2020, but the pent-up demand leading into 2021 is already kicking in, especially for remote places like Antarctica and the Arctic.

    "With all the social distancing and fear around crowds, it's as if people are craving wilderness."

    The survival of the industry is also a matter of vested interest for many port cities and towns, including around Australia. Not only does cruising pump thousands of tourists through our capital cities each year, it's an effective way to ferry people en masse to our regional outposts.

    The ongoing stoush about who is to blame for allowing Ruby Princess and other ships to speedily disembark around 10,000 passengers in Sydney between March 18 and 20 – leading to the spread of COVID-19 – has done nothing for relations between the cruise industry and the NSW government.

    But south of Sydney where Ruby Princess is in dock for up to 10 days with 1400 crew, many of them sick, the Wollongong deputy mayor, Tania Brown, knows which side her bread is buttered.

    Wollongong is one of countless Australian ports that has benefitted from the economic impact of cruising over the years. Adam McLean

    Not only should the crew of the Ruby Princess be cared for on humanitarian grounds, but Brown adds that Wollongong should welcome them given the financial profits cruising has delivered for years.

    It's timely to return the favour, and show compassion to the crew of the Ruby Princess, Councillor Brown said.

    The Australian cruise industry says it delivers $5.2 billion to Australia's bottom line each year, including buying mountains of fresh produce and vast amounts of advertising space in media.

    Then there are port charges. The Port Authority of NSW charges $40 per passenger for a cruise ship to dock at Sydney's Circular Quay or White Bay.

    Hence a ship the size of Ruby Princess with 2700 passengers on board delivers the NSW Government $108,000 for docking during one 24-hour slot, and two ships can comfortably dock per day.

    During the financial year 2011-2012, 199 cruise ships docked in Sydney Harbour, jumping to 323 cruise ships for the 2018-2019 financial year.

    In short, docking ships can be a financially sound process and at the end of the day, the punters will be free to vote with their sea legs.
  2. How many of the passengers were infected?
  3. themickey


    Coronavirus: How did Australia's Ruby Princess cruise debacle happen?
    By Frances Mao BBC News, Sydney

    • 24 March 2020
    On Thursday, the Ruby Princess cruise ship docked in Sydney with dozens of undiagnosed coronavirus cases onboard.

    Almost 2,700 passengers - some coughing and spluttering - were allowed to leave the ship at Sydney Harbour, catching trains, buses and even overseas flights to get home.

    More than 130 people from the cruise have now tested positive, making it the biggest single source of infections in Australia. One passenger died in hospital on Tuesday.

    The saga has caused much anger: why was the ship allowed to dock and unload people?

    What passengers were told
    Passengers have vented their anger over how the situation was handled by ship operator Princess Cruises and Australian authorities.

    Elisa McCafferty, an Australian woman who flew home to London with her husband immediately after disembarking, told the BBC: "Nothing was said at anytime about anyone being sick onboard. It was a distinct lack of information coming through from Princess the entire time."

    She only learned of the danger while collecting her bags at Heathrow Airport.

    "I turned on my phone and I started getting all these notifications from people back in Australia saying 'there's been confirmed cases on the Ruby,'" she said.

    "And I was just absolutely petrified. We had just been on two full flights - what if we had infected someone?"

    She said she now had a dry cough, fever, body aches and fatigue - and they were self-isolating at home. They were also concerned about their elderly parents and friends who were on the trip too.

    Other passengers recalled coming into contact with sick people on the boat and said there were no warnings.

    "I think that they let us down," said Bill Beerens, a Sydney man who tested positive for the virus in hospital on the day he disembarked.

    "I do honestly believe that they [cruise ship management] knew what was going on and they just wanted us off the boat," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    Elderly couple Rona and Michael Doubrin said they had symptoms towards the end of the cruise but had not been concerned, because they had not been told to practice social distancing.

    "People were going down to the pool, we were lying in the sun, eating in the dining room, dancing, seeing shows," Ms Doubrin told Daily Mail Australia.

    "We would have isolated ourselves in the cabin if we'd known. We're not spring chickens - we're high risk."

    What happened in Sydney?
    After an 11-day voyage, the ship returned to the city before dawn, cutting short its final New Zealand leg as the nation announced a travel ban.

    At the time, according to NSW Health, about a dozen passengers reported feeling unwell and they had swabs taken for Covid-19. An ambulance took a passenger to hospital. (The woman, aged in her 70s, died on Tuesday, authorities said.)

    But other passengers on board weren't told of this. Instead, thousands streamed off the boat at Circular Quay, just across from the Sydney Opera House. The bustling area leads directly into the city centre, with transit links to the airport and outer suburbs.

    Five days earlier, Australia began ordering anyone returning from overseas to self-isolate for 14 days - a directive which applied to the cruise passengers.

    But the Ruby Princess passengers weren't screened and were unmonitored when they left the ship. About a third were international passengers - they were told they could travel overseas immediately or self-isolate in Sydney for a fortnight.

    "They even said, you can get a train home," said Ms McCafferty.

    New South Wales health officials have said they followed national guidelines which allow passengers to disembark if the route is considered "low risk". The Ruby Princess was given that status because it had been to New Zealand only.

    One day after the ship docked, officials revealed the first cases of Covid-19 confirmed in three people who had been on board - two passengers and a crew member.

    It prompted a scramble to track down everyone else who had been on board.

    And at least 21 of the 48 people who had tested positive by Monday were found in other Australian states. By Tuesday, the total number of cases linked to the ship had climbed to 133.

    How did this happen?
    It is hardly the first cruise ship to see infections - the Diamond Princess, also operated by Princess Cruises, drew global focus in February. Its passengers were quarantined for almost a month off the coast of Japan before being repatriated. More than 600 cases were linked to the ship.

    Governments at Australia's state and federal level have pointed blame at each other. Princess Cruises has said it followed official guidelines.

    On Saturday, The Australian newspaper reported that the ship had logged 158 ill passengers on its previous voyage to New Zealand. Nine people were tested upon arrival in Sydney on 8 March - and their tests results came back negative. However, two passengers from that journey were found to have tested positive after flying home to Darwin.

    NSW port and health authorities declined to reply to BBC questions about these reports.

    What have authorities said?
    On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the mistake as the responsibility of state officials.

    NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters on Saturday: "With the benefit of what we now know... I'd have said 'yeah, maybe we should hold them on the ship.'"

    But he rejected Canberra's accusations that state officials had not properly checked cruise ships upon entry.

    "New South Wales is actually going over and above what the national guidelines are," said Mr Hazzard.

    State health officials stressed they had run assessments "well beyond federal requirements" for 63 ships which have entered the harbour since mid-February.

    Others noted that while Canberra had enacted a ban on cruise ships arriving, it had allowed four including the Ruby Princess to be exempt.

    Four other cruise ships into Sydney have been linked to confirmed Covid-19 cases. The Ovation of the Seas ship, which docked in Sydney a day before the Ruby Princess, has seen five positive tests.

    Health officials say infected patients are in self-isolation or in hospital. All passengers have been told to quarantine themselves.

    In the wake of the Ruby Princess bungle, Western Australia on Monday questioned where it would allow a cruise ship to dock there. The European ship Magnifica is carrying 1,700 passengers - about 250 of whom are reported to have respiratory illnesses.

    It was allowed to dock on Tuesday to refuel, but all on board were banned from disembarking.

    Premier Mark McGowan had stressed: "I will not allow what happened in Sydney to happen here."
  4. themickey


    The coronavirus cruise ship Ruby Princess has docked at Port Kembla in NSW – this is what the Australian authorities will do next
    By Jessie Davies

    Posted 4ddays ago, updated 3ddays ago
    The Ruby Princes heads past Sydney's iconic Waverley Cemetery.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

    The Ruby Princess cruise ship has docked at Port Kembla a day after NSW Police announced a criminal investigation into the handling of the ship's passengers.

    The massive 18-deck ship still has 1,040 crew from 50 different countries on board, and about one fifth of them are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.

    Eleven deaths and more than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the ship, meaning it is the single biggest source of coronavirus infections in Australia.

    The Ruby Princess is staying at Port Kembla for 10 days to refuel and stock up supplies, but how the crew will be repatriated, and where the ship will go next, remains unclear.

    Where is Port Kembla?
    The Ruby Princess cruise liner arrived in Port Kembla at Wollongong this morning.(ABC News: Jesse Dorsett)

    Port Kembla is an industrial suburb in Wollongong, about 100km south of Sydney, in NSW's Illawarra region.

    Under normal circumstances, cruise ships would dock at the iconic Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour. But these are not normal circumstances.

    The ship has docked to allow medical staff to board and assess and treat ill crew members.

    NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says about 200 are showing coronavirus symptoms.

    People who require treatment in hospital will be taken off the ship, but no-one else will be allowed on to Australian soil.

    All crew on board, including the captain, are isolating in their cabins.

    What happens next?
    Last week, several Ruby Princess crew members were taken off the ship at sea to receive medical treatment in Sydney — a task Commissioner Fuller described as "dangerous".

    "Taking sick crew and passengers off any ship at sea is a dangerous task and that's why the ship will be docked," he said.

    The ship has been told to leave Australian waters.

    Emergency services staff transport ill crew members from the vessel.(ABC News)
    Its home port is in Bermuda, but it's unclear if the Ruby Princess will return there after leaving NSW.

    The Federal Government has banned travel to Australia, so the crew will not be allowed to stay Down Under.

    Commissioner Fuller said while the ship's sick crew would be treated at NSW hospitals, it was the responsibility of the ship's operator, Carnival Australia, to repatriate everyone.

    What about the police investigation?
    On Sunday, Commissioner Fuller launched a criminal inquiry to determine whether Carnival Australia downplayed the number of potential coronavirus cases on the ship before it docked at Circular Quay on March 19.

    Homicide squad heavyweight Detective Chief Inspector Jason Dickinson has been tasked with the investigation.

    The homicide squad is, typically, tasked with probing deaths — mainly suspected murders and manslaughters.
    However, this investigation will look at all agencies involved in the incident, and it's understood NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard will be interviewed in due process.

    The Australian Border Force has previously said NSW Health was responsible for letting about 2,700 passengers off the boat, and claims authorities knew more than a dozen people on board had exhibited coronavirus symptoms when that happened.

    Carnival Australia has indicated it will cooperate with the investigation and hand over any information required, including emails, text messages, radio transmissions and medical correspondence between the doctor and ship's captain.

    NSW Health has said no cases of coronavirus were identified on the ship before it docked (there is no capability to test for coronavirus on board), and pointed out the majority of people did not develop symptoms until after leaving the vessel.
  5. It's downright criminal that they did not notify the passengers while they were on board.
  6. Are there any updates on the situation?
  7. themickey


  8. themickey


    NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay says crew are worried about contracting coronavirus as the cruise ship sails to the Philippines

    Thu 23 Apr 2020 17.28 AEST Last modified on Thu 23 Apr 2020 17.42 AEST


    The Ruby Princess leaves Port Kembla in Australia bound for the Philippines. NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay says crew members have contacted her worried about contracting coronavirus. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

    Crew on board the Ruby Princess say they are worried for their health and have been “left in the dark” as the virus-hit cruise ship left Australia for the Philippines with about 500 on board.

    The ship left Port Kembla just before 5pm on Thursday, after a month in Sydney in which it has been linked to more than 600 cases of coronavirus and 21 deaths among passengers who took its final cruise to New Zealand in March. That cruise, and the decision to allow 2,700 passengers to disembark in Sydney on 19 March, is now the subject of a criminal investigation and a special commission of inquiry.

    So far, more than 190 crew have tested positive for Covid-19 and the 1,100 crew have been in varying lengths of quarantine on board for weeks.


    The NSW Labor leader, Jodi McKay, said crew members had contacted her saying they did not know where they were going, and it was “a death sentence”.

    The daughter of one crew member said she feared for her father’s health if he were to contract the virus on the ship, as he is a 62-year-old diabetic with heart conditions.

    “He’s very high risk to get the Covid-19,” she wrote on Wednesday. “Yesterday night he cannot sleep because he don’t know yet what his result after the swab …. His only wish is that he will be treated in hospital if he ever got the virus.

    “I am eight months pregnant now, every night I am praying that my father will come home to us healthy and safe.”

    Another crew member wrote on Thursday that they had been “left totally in the dark” as the ship was docked in Port Kembla.

    “We were never mentioned in any of the onboard announcements for repatriation … I have repeatedly tried to call HR but no answer,” they wrote.

    “Some nationalities like myself have been left totally in the dark. There is even a repatriation flight leaving to South Africa on the 28th of April but we have been given no option to leave. We have to stay onboard and the company have not even told us where we are sailing to.

    “Who knows when I will be able to reach home! Myself and family are worried and scared what will happen next.”

    McKay said she had been contacted by crew from India, Indonesia, Peru and South Africa all expressing their concerns.

    “I don’t understand why the welfare of each and every person on the Ruby Princess has not been the priority of the NSW and federal government,” she said. “Their plight has touched the hearts of so many Australians. We will continue our advocacy – and as they head into rough seas, they are not alone.”

    The family of one Filipino crew member told McKay’s office that her entire family was worried for his health.

    “I am the niece of one of the crew of the Ruby Princess,” she wrote. “He is a waiter there … we are deeply worried about his situation. My uncle is very kind, he helped me finish school and he is a bread winner of the family. He also helps my grandfather who is ill, he is the one taking care of my grandfather’s medicine.”

    A spokesman for the Ruby Princess’s operator, Carnival Australia, said “there have been announcements on board” telling crew what would happen.

    “Around 370 crew members have disembarked today for a charter flight to the Philippines organised by Princess Cruises,” he said.

    “Around 500 crew, all well, remain on board about half of whom are needed for safe operation of the ship. Ruby Princess will head to the Philippines and we will have more information to share then on crew repatriation.

    “We could have disembarked more crew in Port Kembla but they would have needed to stay in shoreside accommodation for a few days before joining a flight and authorities here wouldn’t allow this. A small number have remained on board because at this stage there was no flight pathways to get them home due to factors such as closed borders to their home countries.”

    A spokesperson for NSW police said that the destination of the ship was a matter for Princess Cruises or its operator, Carnival, but that there were intensive care medical facilities on board.

    “Commissioner [Mick] Fuller has repeatedly stated that repatriation operation involved close consultation with Princess Cruises and the various consulates of crew members, as well as NSW Health and Aspen Medical to ensure those who remain on board were well enough to make the onward journey,” police said.

    “That said, the vessel has the equivalent capability of an ICU on board and highly-skilled medical staff.

    “The role of the NSW police was to ensure the crew that had flights booked to their home country were moved from the boat to either the airport or a hotel to await that flight.”