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Police launches criminal investigation into docking, disembarking of coronavirus-hit Ruby Princess

April 7, 2020, by Naida Hakirevic

The New South Wales Police Force has commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the docking and disembarking of the coronavirus-hit cruise vessel Ruby Princess last month that led to numerous infections and deaths in the region. After being tasked to conduct initial investigations, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said on April 5 that a criminal investigation is now underway to fully examine the communications, actions, and other circumstances that led to the docking and disembarking of the vessel at Sydney Harbour on 19 March 2020. It is expected the investigation will involve interviewing thousands of witnesses, including the Ruby Princess’ captain and doctors, the crew and passengers as well as staff from various Commonwealth and NSW Government offices and agencies. Commissioner Fuller said his initial assessment of the vessel’s pratique left questions about the transparency in conceptualizing the health conditions of passengers and crew in relation to COVID-19. “I’ve examined a number of phone calls between NSW Ambulance, Port Authority of NSW and NSW Police that stemmed from the initial 17-minute Triple Zero call from the ship to NSW Ambulance on March 18,”Fuller said. “There appears to have been an exceptional amount of effort put in by ports to determine the true nature of the conditions on board – and even delayed the vessels arrival until they were provided additional information.” “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,” he explained. The Commissioner added that investigators will examine the actions of everyone involved – whether from the cruise company or government agencies. “This is a complex issue and we will need information from many witnesses to answer all the questions about how this ship ended up docking last month.” “We are mindful that some of the key information we need will also come from passengers, so I urge those who were on-board to reach out to us – please contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.” COVID-19 cases on board Ruby Princess As earlier reported, the cruise ship with a total of 2,647 passengers on board, arrived and disembarked in Sydney last month although some of them were displaying influenza-like symptoms. As a result, Ruby Princess is believed to have become Australia’s biggest source of COVID-19 infections. Four people aboard the ship — three guests and one crew — initially tested positive for the coronavirus. The three passengers left the ship and received medical attention while the crew member remained in isolation on the vessel. One of the infected three guests later passed away in a local hospital. Ruby Princess’ death toll has so far increased to more than ten. To date there have been more than 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in NSW in passengers who all acquired their infection while on, or in some cases, possibly before boarding the Ruby Princess cruise, NSW Health said last week. All passengers were advised to self-isolate for 14 days following disembarkation. Meanwhile, the cruise company is struggling to repatriate the crew currently on board Ruby Princess on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. The cruise ship has docked at the port of Port Kembla to allow for safer access for medical assessments, treatment, or emergency extractions of its crew. “Aspen Medical are continuing to assess the health of the crew on board the Ruby Princess and have developed a plan in conjunction with NSW Health, the NSW Police Force’s Marine Area Command, and Australian Border Force to manage their welfare until they can depart Australian waters,” the police said. Police have been advised that up to 200 of the 1,040 crew members currently on board the vessel are displaying symptoms, while 16 crew members are confirmed to have returned positive results for COVID-19.

Detectives board Ruby Princess to seize black box, question crew

April 9, 2020, by Naida Hakirevic

Detectives have boarded the Ruby Princess cruise vessel docked at the port of Port Kembla to seize its black box and gather more information related to the docking and disembarkation of passengers in Sydney last month. On 8 April, Australian strike force detectives started to conduct inquiries, which included speaking with crew members and collecting other items of interest to the ongoing investigation. The ship, operated by the US-based Princess Cruises, is believed to have become Australia’s biggest source of COVID-19 infections. It is linked to hundreds of confirmed coronavirus cases and a number of deaths. According to the New South Wales Health, there have been six deaths in NSW so far associated with the Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on 19 March. What is more, 363 passengers and 21 crew members have been infected with COVID-19, NSW Health said in an update on 9 April. Earlier this week, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced the commencement of a criminal investigation into the communications, actions, and other circumstances that led to the docking and disembarking of the vessel at Sydney Harbour. Specialist detectives are conducting the investigation under Strike Force Bast. The vessel, with 1,040 crew members being currently on board and undergoing medical treatments, is expected to remain at the port for ten more days.

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