NSW Health authorities are urgently trying to contact 2700 cruise passengers who disembarked in Sydney on Thursday to warn them they are at risk of having contracted coronavirus.
They departed the Ruby Princess after a cruise to New Zealand unaware two passengers and a crew member had tested positive to the virus and a third passenger had presented to hospital ill with symptoms.
Authorities are requesting all passengers from the ship to self-isolate immediately for 14 days. The ill crew member, one of 1100 crew on the Ruby Princess, remains on the ship which has since left Sydney for Melbourne.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard explained that after some people on board the ship presented with flu-like symptoms the doctor on board did 13 patient swabs.
On arriving in Sydney 13 swabs of patients were tested for coronavirus. When the results came in on Friday morning two passengers and a crew member had tested positive.
One of those confirmed passengers has been admitted to a Sydney hospital in serious condition, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said. The other returned to Tasmania and has undergone isolation.
“We are aware that our colleagues in Tasmania are also exploring another passenger who had some symptoms and is admitted to hospital,” Dr Chant said of the third passenger likely to have contracted the virus.
Mr Hazzard said it was possible that other people on board now had COVID-19 and all people on board now needed to self-isolate for 14 days.
“I can't stress enough that all of these passengers were asked to self-isolate,” Dr Chant said.
SMS messages and emails have gone out to all of those passengers on the ship
The health officials said Princess Cruises, the company that owns that Ruby Princess, is managing the issue and talking to the federal health authorities.
Last week, Princess Cruises announced it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months. Yahoo News Australia has contacted Princess Cruises for comment.
‘Substantial’ increase in NSW coronavirus cases
The number of COVID-19 cases in NSW has increased by a "substantial" 75 people to reach more than 380, Mr Hazzard on Friday.
There had been an extra 75 cases in the 24 hours to 11am taking the total to 382.
"It's obviously quite a substantial increase and, again, it's indicative of the growing issue that faces the entire world," he said.
Earlier on Friday, it was announced an 81-year-old NSW woman had died after contracting coronavirus bringing the state's death toll to six and seven across Australia.
The woman died on Thursday night after close contact with a confirmed case linked to Ryde Hospital.
An 86-year-old man previously confirmed to have COVID-19 died in a Sydney hospital on Tuesday night.
Another resident of BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park - a 73-year-old woman - has also come down with COVID-19.
Three of the facility's residents have died to date after contracting coronavirus.
NSW Health has said six people are in intensive care in NSW.
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