Covid-19 cases on ships that visited Dunedin

Covid-19 cases have been confirmed on two cruise ships that visited Dunedin recently, one of which disembarked in the city.

Fifty-six Kiwis were on board one of the ships - the Ruby Princess - which arrived in Sydney with four coronavirus cases after a New Zealand trip that included a stop in Dunedin.

The Princess Cruises-operated ship returned to Sydney on Thursday with 1100 crew and 2700 passengers on board.


Its itinerary says it was on a 13-day return trip to New Zealand, with stops including Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington and Tauranga.

It arrived in Dunedin on the morning of March 12 and departed the same day, at 6pm.

In a statement this evening, New Zealand's Ministry of Health said three Australian passengers and one crew member had tested positive.

The ministry was is in the process of contacting the 56 New Zealanders who were on board. They would be asked "to be vigilant and contact their GP or Healthline if they display any symptoms".

The ministry was working with Customs and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade to check if any of them had returned home.

Any passengers who had returned to New Zealand would have to go into self-isolation for 14 days. 

It was also working through the itinerary of local visits undertaken by passengers to see if there are other precautionary steps needed to be taken.

The news comes on a day when 11 new cases were announced in New Zealand.

Disembarked in Dunedin 

While none of the new cases was in the South, one them – an Auckland man in his 60s – was on another cruise ship that visited Dunedin recently. The man disembarked the Celebrity Solstice in Port Chalmers on March 15 and returned separately to Auckland.

The ship arrived in Sydney this morning and any New Zealanders on board who had returned here would be regarded as close contacts, put in self-isolation and monitored daily.

Ruby Princess

From those on the ship, doctors initially tested 13 unwell patients and two passengers and a crew member were found to have the virus.

"One of those passengers was not at all well, and was taken off the ship and has been taken to a hospital here in Sydney and is being cared for," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters today.

"That particular passenger, now patient, is not particularly well."

The other passenger had since travelled to Tasmania and was being cared for in that state's health system.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said a fourth person, another passenger, was confirmed to have Covid-19 after attending an emergency department.

A fifth person from the ship who's now in Tasmania is suffering coronavirus-like symptoms.

Mr Hazzard said it was possible other people on board now had Covid-19 and everyone needed to self-isolate for 14 days.

The 1100 crew members remain on the ship off the NSW coast and will self-isolate on board.

The passengers were permitted to disembark on Thursday and Mr Hazzard implored all 2700 to self-isolate to avoid making others ill.

The minister encouraged the passengers to be vigilant for symptoms of fever and cough.

"If they are doing what they've been asked to do then they'll be at home in quarantine for 14 days, and that would present no concerns whatsoever to us in NSW," Mr Hazzard said.

"To the community - if you know somebody who came in yesterday from the Ruby Princess, do our community a very big favour and have a chat and make sure that they are given this clear message: Put yourself in a self-isolation."

Dr Chant said all passengers had been contacted by text and email with authorities now making follow-up phone calls.

She said the cruise ship company would take care of the Ruby Princess crew.

The number of Australians among the crew remains unclear.

"They have doctors on board the ship, they have ICU facilities, they have care," Dr Chant said.

"With all the passengers off the ship, they have the ability to reallocate all the crew to single rooms with bathrooms."

 * As of midnight 14 March all cruise ships were banned from coming to New Zealand until at least June 30, 2020. Ships already in New Zealand waters were permitted to conclude their itinerary.

Ships' schedules

Ruby Princess

Fiordland (11 March), Dunedin (12 March), Akaroa (13 March), Wellington (14 March) and Napier (15 March).  The cruise was shortened after visiting Napier, for weather reasons, and the ship returned directly to Sydney.

Celebrity Solstice

Tauranga (March 11), Picton (March 13), Akaroa (March 14), Port Chalmers (March 15) leaving from Fiordland on March 16. 

 - additional reporting ODT Online

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