An Australian independent special commission of inquiry into the outbreak of Covid-19 on Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess has been completed and revealed “serious mistakes” made by the New South Wales Authorities.
The inquiry report, released on Friday (14 August), highlighted how the NSW Health had made “serious mistakes” in allowing the 2,650 passengers to disembark when the ship docked in Sydney in March.
Passengers who left the ship were also not tested, despite there being suspected cases on board.
It revealed how the NSW Health had mischaracterised the ship as low-risk, and should have tested sick patients immediately.
According to the report, it was “inexcusable” that officials had failed to immediately obtain results from coronavirus swab tests taken on 19 March – the day the vessel docked.
However, The 318-page report said there were no “systematic failures”. “There are no ‘systemic’ failures to address. Put simply, despite the best efforts of all, some serious mistakes were made.”
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was particularly sorry to the 62 people who had caught the virus from passengers who disembarked.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like having a loved one — or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result — and I want to apologise unreservedly,” she said.
The commission’s report also clears Princess Cruises of any wrongdoing in having allowed its guests to disembark on 19 March.
Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said: “Princess Cruises welcomes the completion of the independent Special Commission of Inquiry into Ruby Princess and again expresses profound sorrow at the impact Covid-19 has had on Ruby Princess’s guests, crew and their families.
“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected, particularly those who lost loved ones. The Commission’s report confirms that none of our people — the Captain, the ship’s doctor, or members of our shore side port agency team — misled public authorities involved in Ruby Princess being permitted to disembark guests on March 19.
“This finding is of great importance to us because it goes to the integrity of our people. In our more than 20 years in Australia, we have always sought to cooperate honestly and professionally with officials in accordance with the regulatory environment. We acknowledge the Commission’s specific comments about Carnival and we will consider these comments to the fullest possible extent.
“Princess Cruises also welcomes the Commission’s attention to improving information sharing and coordination among government agencies in the future. In our submission to the inquiry, we agreed that this area deserved consideration. We look forward to collaborating with government agencies and industry peers to improve these systems.
“Our overriding objective is to ensure cruising is a safe and enjoyable pastime for the millions of people who value exploring the world by sea as their preferred holiday choice.
“Princess Cruises has developed strong relationships with our guests, travel agents and other stakeholders in Australia and over decades we have also worked closely with the Australian Government, State Governments and their agencies on many initiatives to build and invest in the cruise industry in Australia.
“We will now take some time to consider the Commission’s findings. In the light of ongoing legal proceedings, we are not able to add to these comments at this time.”
The inquiry does not confirm how many people tested positive for the virus as many did not get tested.
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