NSW Health has named four cruise ships as having confirmed cases of coronavirus with one of those ships having done two trips, bringing the total number of cruises identified to five.
More than 2600 passengers who were on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, disembarked in Sydney on Thursday morning. At least three passengers and a crew member have since tested positive for coronavirus.
A couple who left the ship in Sydney and then flew to Darwin are among the positive results.
In an update on Saturday afternoon, the health department said “NSW Health has identified four separate cruises affected by COVID-19, in addition to the Ruby Princess reported previously.”
The additional cruises are as follows:
• Ovation of the Seas, leaving Sydney on March 11 and returning on March 18
• Voyager of the Seas, leaving Sydney on February 25 and returning on March 7
• Voyager of the Seas, leaving Sydney on March 7 and returning on March 18
• Celebrity Solstice, confirmed case joined the ship in Auckland on March 10, docked in Sydney on March 20
NSW Health said all passengers are being contacted to ensure self-quarantine although self isolation of “well passengers” on the trip arriving back on March 7 is no longer required as the 14-day advisory period has passed.
OVATION OF THE SEAS
NSW Health has identified a 67-year-old man who travelled from Canada before boarding a week-long cruise from Sydney on March 11 to March 18 as being diagnosed with coronavirus.
The Ovation of the Seas trip did not stop at any overseas locations.
“There are no known linked cases, no evidence of an outbreak of respiratory illness on the ship or people who developed symptoms on the last day of the cruise,” the health department said in a statement on Saturday.
“The ship is now at sea with only crew on board.”
Passengers are advised to be alert for the development of any symptoms and should self-quarantine.
The Ovation of the Seas was the cruise ship that travelled to New Zealand in December when the White Island volcano erupted, killing a number of Australians who were on a day trip.
VOYAGER OF THE SEAS
Passengers on back-to-back Voyager of the Seas trips have tested positive for COVID-19.
The first case was a young woman in her 20s travelling from February 25 to March 7.
The cruise ship visited the South Pacific and New Zealand.
“There are no known linked cases, and no evidence of an outbreak of respiratory illness on board,” NSW Health said.
At 6.30am on Saturday it had been 14 days since the ship arrived back in Sydney.
“Although self-isolation of well passengers is no longer required, all passengers are being contacted with advice to seek COVID-19 testing if unwell,” the state’s health department said.
Earlier on Saturday, health authorities sent an email advising Voyager of the Seas passengers that a passenger was “infectious while on the ship” for the March 7 to March 18 cruise.
A 66-year-old man from South Australia was confirmed as having the coronavirus on Friday.
He is in a Sydney hospital.
“There are no known linked cases and no evidence of an outbreak of respiratory illness on board,” NSW Health repeated.
The department urged those who travelled on the Royal Caribbean-operated cruise ship, that arrived in Sydney on Wednesday, to self-isolate for 14 days at home following the revelation.
The Voyager of the Seas had taken passengers on an 11-night South Pacific cruise.
Royal Caribbean sent a statement to guests “in conjunction with NSW Public Health and in an abundance of caution” in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“This person was diagnosed after disembarking and was infectious while on the ship,” the health department said in the email,” seen by news.com.au.
All passengers have been advised they are “considered a close contact” and needed to remain in home isolation for a fortnight after they disembarked, up to the morning of April 1.
“We are working with public health authorities in Australia and New Zealand. We appreciate their efforts and are co-operating with their requests,” a Royal Caribbean International spokesperson told news.com.au on Saturday.
The ship was called into Sydney early on Tuesday for a medical evacuation after a guest suffered a stroke. It resumed sailing before returning to Circular Quay on Wednesday.
Celebrity Solstice, which docked in Sydney on Friday, is the fourth of the vessels to have a passenger diagnosed with the coronavirus.
“New Zealand has advised that a male passenger on the Celebrity Solstice, which docked in Sydney on 20 March, was reported today to have COVID-19,” NSW Health said on Saturday.
“The case had joined the ship at the beginning of the cruise in Auckland on 10 March and left it in Dunedin on 15 March.
“There are no known linked cases and no evidence of an outbreak of respiratory illness on board, all passengers are being contacted to ensure self-quarantine and to provide advice to monitor for symptoms.”
THE GOVERNMENT RESPONDS
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was questioned by reporters in Melbourne on Saturday morning on why passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship were allowed to disembark.
“We made the decision to ban foreign cruise ships,” he said.
“Those returning to Australian ports are returning under strict conditions.
“We make no apologies for imposing tough restrictions. We have banned foreign cruise ships and we are bringing those home that otherwise would not have a dock.
“Our ban has meant that what we have allowed is for Australian-based ships to return and allow people to disembark straight into home isolation. We have made clear to New South Wales that the standards that apply in all other states apply in NSW, they are now making sure they apply those rules absolutely.”
The department has directed any passengers on the ship to further close contact information.