The sister ship of a cruise liner once linked to one in eight coronavirus cases in NSW has docked in the state, with passengers disembarking while crew members isolate from a COVID-19 outbreak on board.
The Coral Princess docked at Eden on NSW’s south coast on Tuesday afternoon and about 800 passengers went ashore after recording negative results on rapid antigen tests.
Crew are not allowed to disembark following a coronavirus outbreak that has mainly infected staff on board.
The ship is due to arrive in Sydney on Wednesday morning and it will remain docked for a day before returning to its home port in Brisbane.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said on Tuesday there were 118 cases confirmed on board the ship, 114 of them in crew. Some 24 infected passengers disembarked in Brisbane earlier this week.
NSW health officials are liaising with the Coral Princess to monitor the health of crew and passengers while the ship is in local waters.
“While a small number of passengers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since boarding the Coral Princess, their infections were most likely acquired prior to boarding and they subsequently tested positive,” NSW Health said in a statement.
The ship was assessed as having an “amber” COVID-19 risk level, the second highest level.
A Princess Cruises spokesman said positive cases were detected in crew members through regular surveillance testing in line with protocols introduced when the cruise industry resumed operating in May.
Further cases were detected in a recent full screening.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday he had received advice about the ship’s journey but the situation was still developing.
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the outbreak may deter some people from cruise holidays, but governments had been clear about how COVID-19 was being managed in the community.
“The health response now is quite different to what it was at other stages of the pandemic,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
The Coral Princess was the first cruise ship to make Brisbane’s International Cruise Terminal its home port last month.
At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, another Princess cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, was briefly linked to one in eight NSW coronavirus cases.
The Coral Princess entered NSW waters as the state revised the COVID-19 reinfection period to one-third of its previous length.
People who have been infected with COVID-19 will now need to re-test if they experience symptoms 28 or more days after they exit isolation.
That period is down from 12 weeks following advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee after the emergence of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants, which are circulating widely in NSW.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the immunity-evading variants meant reinfection with the virus was possible only weeks after a prior infection.
Additional booster shots are available for people aged 30 and over ahead of an expected peak in cases throughout winter.
Dr Chant recommended people at high risk of serious infection speak to their doctor about accessing antiviral medications, which can reduce the severity of COVID-19.
“Antivirals work best when taken at the beginning of a COVID infection, so it is really important that if you are at high risk, you plan ahead,” she said.