Cruise

Ruby Princess report: NSW Health slammed for “inexcusable” mistakes, as Princess Cruises comes off unscathed

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Princess Cruises has come off virtually unscathed in the NSW government’s special enquiry into the Ruby Princess disembarkation debacle.

Instead, most of the blame fell on NSW Health’s “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes.

The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess handed in its findings on Friday in which it found the cruise line had not misled public authorities involved in the ships disembarkation.

Commissioner of the enquiry, Brett Walker, gave very few suggestions to the cruise line but said it needed to ensure its onboard medical personnel were across the latest health guidelines and its guests were kept up to date about suspect cases.

Walker also said the ships doctor,  Ilse von Watzdorf, should have updated NSW Health on the additional passengers and crew who were diagnosed with influenza-like illness (ILI) and acute respiratory infection (ARI) after her initial report was made.

“This was an inadvertent oversight on her behalf, rather than a failure to comply with a requirement,” he said.

Princess Cruises said in a statement that it would consider the commission’s specific comments about the cruise line “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,” the line said.

“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.

“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 was established in April after 2,700  passengers were allowed to disembark the Ruby Princess in March, which led to hundreds of cases of COVID-19 and at least 28 deaths.

Report slams NSW Health 

Walker also gave very few recommendations for state health authorities and said they had recognised their mistakes and would “do things differently” if given the opportunity.

The commissioner said it would be “inappropriate” and “unhelpful” to make recommendations to experts that “amount to no more than ‘do your job'”.

“NSW Health should have ensured that cruise ships were aware of the change to the definition of a ‘suspect case’ for COVID-19 made on 10 March,” Walker said.

“This would have resulted in the identification of such cases on the Ruby Princess.

“NSW Health should also have ensured that such persons were isolated in cabins. These were serious mistakes.”

The report also noted that the ship’s classification as “low risk” is as “inexplicable as it is unjustifiable”.

“It was a serious mistake,” the report said.

“No evidence provided to this commission, or given by witnesses in the public hearings, comes even reasonably close to satisfactorily explaining how a decision to “do nothing” by means of precaution was adequate, or rational.

“The suggestion that people would have to self-isolate at home is no answer. They had to get home first.”

However, Walker also acknowledged that the mistakes made by health authorities “were not made here because they failed to treat the threat of COVID-19 seriously”.

“Those physicians relied on the best science, not pseudoscience or matters of political convenience.

“They were diligent, and properly organised. There are no ‘systemic’ failures to address.

“Put simply, despite the best efforts of all, some serious mistakes were made.”

Aviation workers knew risks but were powerless to prevent disaster 

ABC News reported that Virgin Australia had called the ABF and requested a list of passengers from Ruby Princess who planned to board a flight with the airline but was rebuffed by Australian Border Force (ABF).

Qantas also expressed concern, with one of its captains radioing the Sydney operations centre a few days after the ship disembarked to report his crew had spotted passengers with Ruby Princess bags and t-shirts.

After much back and forth between health authorities and airlines, it was confirmed that the ABF did not have the authority to prevent Ruby Princess passengers from boarding, but airlines did.

However, airlines were denied access to information that would have identified which passengers had been on board the ship.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said aviation workers were put at “unacceptable risk” and is calling on Qantas to review if any cabin crew, cabin cleaners or baggage handlers subsequently contracted the virus.

“It is clear that cabin crew, pilots, cabin cleaners and baggage handlers were exposed to an unacceptable risk over the Ruby Princess debacle,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“The inquiry has highlighted the failures of the Federal and State authorities but what is unclear is how the likes of Qantas, knowing the risk, protected their workers.

“We know Qantas crew who operated on flights with Ruby Princess passengers were not offered the opportunity to self-isolate or given any information on staying safe once they got off those flights.

“Workers who crewed flights with Ruby Princess passengers cleaned the planes and handled their baggage were terrified when they returned to their families that they would spread the virus and they were given no support from the airline.”

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

One response to “Ruby Princess report: NSW Health slammed for “inexcusable” mistakes, as Princess Cruises comes off unscathed”

  1. …the ruby princess so called ‘debacle’ happened at a time when the government of australia was still struggling to understand the growing number of covid cases and how to deal with it… in fact no stages of restrictions were in placed yet when the nsw authority allowed passengers to disembark allowing ruby passengers to fly all over to their respective homes…. hey look, wearing a mask was not even considered a safety measure to prevent virus spread then…. now it’s all over the world a must do… that was how confused all governments were in dealing the virus spread… had the nsw government prevented the disembarkation of the ruby passengers, covid infected passengers would have infected others more on the ship… my point is, i believe the nsw health’s mistake is forgivable/excusable…. otherwise we also have to blame all governments for not requiring its citizens to use face masks at the early onslaught of the pandemic which according to findings can reduce 92% spread of the virus…. remember even the federal health ministry was insisting before wearing face mask wouldn’t help… so do we hold the health ministry’s action inexcusable?..

Leave a Reply

Destinations

Queensland to reopen its border to Victorians just in time for the Chrissy break

Queenslanders would be well advised to take cover, as we imagine waves of Victorians and NSW residents will be descending on the Sunshine State in the coming weeks.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

COVID-19 deniers threaten to boycott Qantas after Joyce’s vaccine revelation

by Ali Coulton

Anti-vaxxers, COVID-19 deniers and general conspiracy theorists are having an absolute field day following the news that Qantas passengers will need a COVID-19 vaccine to travel internationally.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Travel tops the list of COVID-related complaints received by the ACCC

In what will probably come as a shock to no one, travel has been the most-complained about topic by consumers since COVID-19 hit.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Viking appoints former US Navy Vice Admiral as chief health officer

Viking staff are busy shining their shoes and ironing their uniforms upon learning that a former Navy officer is now among the cruise line’s ranks.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Birmo says international travel may be back on the cards in 2021

International travel in 2021 may not be off the cards just yet, but Australia’s Tourism Minister said getting Aussies overseas in the first half of the year will be challenging.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Thirty-cent beers, anyone? Bookshop discovers Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar menu from the 1970s

Ah, the good old days of flying, where the drinks were cheap enough to get completely sloshed for under a $1 and the cabin was so full of smoke you could hardly see the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

TFE Hotels to introduce new brand in Australia

We’ll give you two clues for the name of the new hotel brand: it’s coming all the way from Singapore, and it rhymes with ‘wincy’. And no, it’s not Incy.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Travel agent’s email spree brings in $40,000 in sales

Fancy making a few phat sales? Here are some handy tips from TravelManagers’ Julianne Gazal-Rizk, who has been busy bringing in the big bucks.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Air New Zealand and the All Blacks share motivational tips and messages of support for travel industry

by Sponsored by Air New Zealand

Ever wondered how the All Blacks cope when the chips are down? Get some daily insights right here, along with the chance to win one of five signed jerseys!

Share

CommentComments

Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with APT Travel Group’s Mladen Vukic

This week, APT Travel’s GM of product showed us his best home-haircutting techniques, and we smiled and nodded while we watched him slowly descend into madness.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Airline executive arrested on suspicion of treason

This airline executive could face a long, cold holiday in the slammer if found guilty.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Queensland to reopen border to Greater Sydney travellers from December

Palaszczuk has extended a pre-emptive welcome to Sydneysiders who want to spend their summer in Queensland, while hinting an announcement about Victoria may come tomorrow.

Share

CommentComments