The US company that owns and operates the Ruby Princess cruise ship has expressed “deep sadness” over the fallout of the ship’s COVID-19 contamination.
Princess Cruises, based in California, today issued a statement saying it would assist a Commission of Inquiry by the NSW Government in understanding who is to blame for the ship’s docking in Sydney while sick passengers were on board.
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“It is heartbreaking and distressing to know that coronavirus has had, and continues to have, such a terrible impact on so many people across the world, including some of our guests, crewmembers and their families,” Jan Swartz, President of Princess Cruises, said.
“Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone that has been affected.”
Ms Swartz said what happened on the ship “reflected what was happening in the world” and defended the decision made by authorities to allow all guests off the ship without testing.
“Even at the time the ship left Sydney, international flights were coming to Australia, the borders were still open and major sporting events were still being played to packed stadiums,” Ms Swartz said.
“This was an unprecedented global situation and everyone involved was no doubt making the best decisions they could at the time.”
She also described Princess’ position in Australia as “painful” and acknowledged the US-based cruise line was still working alongside NSW Health, Australian Border Force, the ABF’s contractor Aspen Medical and the NSW Police.
“We have worked hard to establish strong relations with our guests, travel agents and other stakeholders in Australia,” Ms Swartz said.
“We also have worked closely with the Australian government over a long period of time on many initiatives.
“We thank them for all the support they have provided to us over the many years we have been building, and investing in, the cruise industry in Australia.”
The Ruby Princess is currently docked at Port Kembla, south of Sydney. Hundreds of crew members remain onboard, with 139 currently diagnosed as suffering from COVID-19.
Crew members cannot disembark the ship and care packages are being driven to the dock.
NSW Police have opened a criminal investigation into the decisions behind how thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark from the Ruby Princess.
Police say the investigation will involve interviewing thousands of witnesses, including the Ruby Princess’ captain and doctors, the crew and passengers; and staff from various Commonwealth and NSW Government offices and agencies.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said police, in tandem with the NSW state coroner, will want “doctors’ records and a whole lot of other records” from the Ruby Princess and parent company, Princess Cruises.
But it was too early to tell if a crime had been committed, Comm. Fuller said.
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