The NSW Government has asked the state’s police commissioner to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Ruby Princess docking, which has been linked to a number of COVID-19 deaths.
Addressing reporters on Sunday, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said Premier Gladys Berejiklian asked him to head up the investigation into the cruise ship, which disembarked passengers in Sydney on March 19.
“Over the past 48 hours I've reviewed several 000 calls to ambulance, numerous radio transmissions, emails, various forms relating to biosecurity act and external health review,” he said.
Comm Fuller added there were “strong” state and national laws relating to docking cruise ships in NSW.
“In addition to these laws, New South Wales Health adopted new national protocols in early March for cruise ships relating to COVID-19,” he said.
The news comes hours after the NSW Health minister confirmed four new COVID-19 deaths overnight, with the department’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty confirming three of the patients were on board the Ruby Princess.
The three new deaths takes the death toll linked to the cruise ship to 10.
“The key question that remains unanswered and a criminal or coronial investigation will need to be conducted, was the Carnival crew transparent in contextualising the true patient and crew health conditions relevant to COVID-19?” Comm Fuller said.
Triple-0 call from Ruby Princess
Comm Fuller said there was a 17-minute long triple-0 call from a crew member on board the vessel to NSW Ambulance on March 18, a day before passengers were allowed to disembark.
The call was reportedly concerning two passengers who required medical assistance.
“After that call an ambulance supervisor concerned in terms of the terminology around the infectious nature of some of these passengers... escalated the matter,” Comm Fuller said.
“He did an outstanding job.”
The ambulance supervisor then contacted police.
“There were a number of phone calls between Ambulance, New South Wales Police and the New South Wales Port Authority,” Comm Fuller said, praising the port authority for their “exceptional job” trying to get the facts.
“They made contact with the ship on numerous occasions. They actually stopped the ship from coming into Sydney Harbour without further medical information,” Comm Fuller said of the port authority.
“They made contact with operations manager from Carnival. And on each case they were informed that COVID-19 wasn't an issue on the ship.”
Comm Fuller said there were “many unanswered questions”.
He said records among the captain, the captain’s doctor and thousands of witnesses on board the cruise ship will provide “crucial” information to aid the investigation.
When asked if he believed a crime had been committed, Comm Fuller said it was “too early to tell”, but there was “clear evidence” COVID-19 had been “brought off that ship”.
“There's clear evidence now when it stopped in New Zealand COVID-19 has come off that ship and at least 10 people have died in Australia from COVID-19,” he said.
“The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”
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