Ruby Princess: Pressure on NSW to release Covid ship report

The Ruby Princess left Sydney on March 8 for New Zealand and returned 11 days later. Photo: Getty...
The Ruby Princess left Sydney on March 8 for New Zealand and returned 11 days later. Photo: Getty Images
Pressure is mounting on the New South Wales government in Australia to release a report due to be handed to the premier on the disembarkation of the Covid-affected Ruby Princess.

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay is calling on the state's Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to release the report to the public as soon as she receives it.

She also urged the Berejiklian government to implement every recommendation in full and called on the premier to apologise to the families impacted by the debacle.

"The premier just needs to admit the government was deficient in some aspects," Ms McKay told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

"I do hope that out of today we see responsibility and accountability allocated where th`ey should be and we ensure this never happens again."

The Ruby Princess, which docked at Sydney's Circular Quay on March 19, has been linked to hundreds of cases and more than 20 coronavirus-related deaths across Australia.

The ship - which was low on medical supplies and swabs for on-board Covid-19 tests due to shortages - left Sydney on March 8 for New Zealand and returned 11 days later.

Fifty-six New Zealanders were reportedly on board the ship, which arrived in Sydney on Wednesday, March 18, after a New Zealand trip that included stops in Dunedin, Akaroa and Wellington. It arrived in Dunedin on the morning of March 12 and departed the same day at 6pm.

Despite the respiratory symptoms of numerous Ruby Princess passengers and the uncertainty surrounding test results, 2700 passengers were permitted to disembark as the voyage had been deemed low risk by NSW health authorities.

This is because only 0.94% of people on board presented to the ship's medical centre with flu-like symptoms - not the 1% required to mandate NSW Health intervention - and none had visited virus-hit countries China, Italy, Iran or South Korea.

Passengers disembarked before the results of 13 expedited tests were known - which would later show at least three people had the virus.

Hundreds of virus-affected Ruby Princess crew members were then stranded off the coast of southern NSW before the ship departed for the Philippines in late April.

Barrister Bret Walker, SC, was tasked with examining the ship's departure, arrival and disembarkation and conducted 21 days of hearings from April to July.

He looked at the actions of Ruby Princess crew and ship operator Princess Cruises, as well as NSW Health, NSW Police and federal border and agriculture authorities.

Mr Walker will on Friday submit his report to Ms Berejiklian and Governor Margaret Beazley, with the government to have final say on its date of publication.

Separate NSW police and coronial inquiries into the Ruby Princess remain under way and are not expected to report back for at least another month.

Federal Labor's home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally on Thursday lashed the federal government for what she saw as a failure to cooperate with Mr Walker's inquiry.

Federal officials were not permitted to testify in person.

"It was the cause of our biggest outbreak until we had this wave in Victoria and the reality is when it comes to accountability, this prime minister is nowhere to be seen, he's pointing the fingers at other people, ducking the responsibility," Senator Keneally told Sky News.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously denied being uncooperative, saying "we would cooperate with the inquiry as we have with other inquiries".







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