NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has started a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess scandal — a scandal which, at last count, has led to the deaths of 11 passengers.
The commissioner said preliminary inquiries into phone call logs, email correspondence, radio transmissions and other documents had raised concerns about potentially misleading conduct.
Here’s Inq‘s list of 10 questions the commissioner should ask.
1. Why did Carnival proceed with the Ruby Princess cruise from Sydney to New Zealand on March 8, given that COVID-19 infections had already hit cruise ships around the world, including their own? And were they aware that older people were especially vulnerable to the virus?
2. Why did NSW Health delay boarding the ship’s 2700 passengers for eight hours on March 8, but then decide to let the ship depart? Can it clarify that over 100 passengers had been reported as returning sick when the ship arrived in Sydney earlier that day?
3. When the ship set sail from Sydney were NSW Health and Carnival aware that passengers might be carriers of COVID-19 but not show symptoms?
4. Had any of the Ruby Princess’ 1000 crew been on board for the previous trip where illness had been reported? It is reported that around 200 out of 1000 crew members are showing symptoms of COVID-19, in addition to 16 who have already tested positive.
5. Why didn’t NSW Health board the Ruby Princess before it docked in Sydney on March 19 to investigate information from Ruby Princess that there were 104 “acute respiratory infections” on the ship, including 36 people who had “influenza-like illness”, before giving the passengers the green light to leave?
6. When NSW Health asked Ruby Princess if there were “suspected” cases of COVID-19 on the ship, what did the ship’s doctors say? And why didn’t NSW Health make its own conclusion that these may well be cases of COVID-19, even if there was no conclusive proof at that point?
7. According to information leaked by “officials” to The Australian, the Ruby Princess provided 13 swabs to NSW Health officials for testing — though about 48 swabs had reportedly been taken of passengers. If this is true, why were only 13 swabs handed over?
8. Why didn’t NSW Health wait for the results of the 13 swabs before releasing all 2700 passengers from the ship?
9. A seriously ill woman in her 70s was taken off the Ruby Princess to a waiting NSW Ambulance at 2.30am on March 19, straight after docking. Yet all the ship’s passengers were disembarked six hours later. Were NSW Health or the Ruby Princess aware that the woman was infected at that point?
10. Why did the Port Authority of NSW initially deny Ruby Princess’ permission to dock on the night of March 18 and then reverse that decision after a 17 minute midnight phone call with a senior Carnival Australia executive? What information did the Carnival Australia executive pass on about suspicions of COVID-19 on board?
And here’s a final question from Inq to Carnival:
11. Why won’t Carnival put its CEO forward for a live, on-the-record interview with an independent journalist, with no restrictions on questions?