A criminal investigation will be launched into the disastrous handling of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which saw thousands of coronavirus infected passengers given the greenlight to disembark in Sydney.
At least 11 passengers from ship have now died, accounting for almost one third of of Australia’s total Covid-19 deaths.
All 2700 passengers were allowed to freely disembark in Sydney on March 19, after NSW Health gave the greenlight despite passengers on board displaying Covid-19 like symptoms.
Currently 662 people linked to the cruise have been diagnosed with Covid-19, more than 10 per cent of Australia’s total cases. Around 200 crew members still on board are currently showing symptoms of Covid-19, as medical officers continue to conduct testing.
Police Commissioner Mike Fuller said they would look at the behaviour of Carnival Cruise, the company behind the ship’s brand, after a leaked phone transcript between the Port Authority of NSW and Carnival showed there was a possibility the cruise company suspected passengers on board had coronavirus.
“The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation,” he said.
“The key question that remains unanswered … was Carnival transparent in contextualising the true patient and crew health conditions relevant to Covid-19?
“There seems to be absolute discrepancies between the information provided by Carnival and what I would see is the benchmark for the laws that the federal government and the state government put in place in terms of protecting Australians from cruise ships when coronavirus had started.”
Home affairs minister Peter Dutton also said there was a possibility of cruise ship companies misleading authorities.
“It’s clear that some of the companies have been lying about the situation of the health of passengers and crew on board, so what we’ve agreed to do with NSW is to look at each of the vessels,” he told 2GB radio.
A spokesman for the cruise company said they had seen the Police Commissioner’s announcement.
“In addition to willingly participating in the investigation, Carnival Australia will vigorously respond to any allegations of which there must now be full disclosure and the basis for them,” the spokesperson said.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant have also come under scrutiny for their handling of the situation.