Australia's New South Wales police have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the docking and disembarking of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which created a major cluster of coronavirus cases, police said in a statement Sunday.
The investigation will "fully examine" the communications and actions that allowed passengers to disembark from the cruise ship in Sydney on March 19, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said in a statement.
It is expected that the investigation will involve interviewing thousands of witnesses, including the ship's captain, doctors, crew members, and passengers, and officials from the federal and state government.
“After reviewing the information at hand, the only way I can determine whether our national biosecurity laws or our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation," Fuller said.
Here's what the NSW Department of Health said last Friday:
- "No cases of Covid-19 were identified" at the time when the ship docked.
- The vast majority of passengers did not report symptoms until after leaving the ship.
- As of last Friday, at least 342 people are confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 from the ship, it added.
Up to 200 of the 1,040 crew members onboard the ship have displayed coronavirus-like symptoms, while 16 have returned positive results for Covid-19, NSW Police said.
Meanwhile, the Ruby Princess will continue to berth at Port Kembla for up to 10 days to allow for safer access for medical assessments, NSW police said Monday.
Health authorities will carry out "medical assessments, treatment, or emergency extractions of her crew," according to a police statement.
"The berthing will be conducted under strict health and biosecurity guidelines and will not pose a risk to employees at the port or the broader community," the statement adds. "She will also be refueling and restocking provisions, as required for her home journey."
Crew members will not be allowed to disembark unless in an emergency and approved by the police commissioner.