Outbreak On Board

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Outbreak On Board

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How a luxury cruise inflamed a country's health crisis

A frightening insiders’ view at how the Ruby Princess luxury cruise ship became one of the major carriers of COVID-19 into Australia, spreading death and fear amongst the thousands of passengers and crew. This must-see report examines the crucial decisions made by the cruise operator as they continued to take holidaymakers to sea after the global pandemic was already spreading at an unprecedented rate worldwide. From the detailed and emotional interviews with passengers an alarming picture emerges.

On 19th of March, 2020 only weeks into the start of what is now called a global pandemic, thousands of passengers disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney harbour. Their ‘luxury’ cruise holiday had been cut short after authorities announced cruise ships would shortly be banned from Australian ports as part of the measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. On arriving in Sydney, passengers freely mingled in groups on the shore before dispersing around the country and overseas. Far from protecting people, the release of the Ruby Princess’s passengers instead triggered a public health emergency, with the cruise ship now named as the single largest source of Australia’s coronavirus infections.

The Ruby Princess became an incubator for infection, leaving its passengers and staff dangerously exposed. Owned by the world’s largest cruise company, Carnival Corporation, the Ruby Princess was one of a fleet of cruise ships operating as the pandemic gathered speed. The company was well aware of the risks. Only five weeks earlier, a sister ship, the Diamond Princess, created world headlines when its passengers were trapped on board as the virus spread. While infected passengers think the Ruby Princess should be sailed out to sea and sunk, its owner company is busy marketing post-Covid cruises.

Passengers of the ill-fated cruise are adamant that Carnival forewent their duty of care. Passengers that voiced concerns while on the ship and called for information were met with reassurance from staff that “this ship is virus free”. The cruise liner was ultimately called back to Sydney, but not before the virus had spread unchecked among the passengers, and unchallenged by social distancing measures. Unaware of the public health disaster they were carrying, 850 passengers and crew from the ship contracted the virus, 26 died.

A Four Corners story

Credits

Four Corners
Australian Broadcasting Corporation