Health authorities in Australia have been criticised in an inquiry into the Covid-19 outbreak onboard Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess in March.
The investigation found "serious errors" by New South Wales Health in its handling of suspected cases onboard the vessel after all 2,700 passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney without sufficient screening.
At least 900 people later tested positive for Covid-19 with 28 deaths linked to the incident.
"The events surrounding the ship’s voyage and disembarkation on 19 March 2020 will sadly have a lasting effect for many passengers and their families," the report stated.
"It can only be hoped that this episode serves as a precautionary tale should public health authorities ever again encounter similarly challenging circumstances."
Jan Swartz, group president, Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, said she welcomed the completion of the inquiry which confirmed none of the line’s staff – the ship’s captain, doctor, or members of its port agency team — had misled public authorities surrounding the disembark guests on 19 March.
“This finding is of great importance to us because it goes to the integrity of our people. In our more than 20 years in Australia, we have always sought to cooperate honestly and professionally with officials in accordance with the regulatory environment," she said.
“We acknowledge the commission’s specific comments about Carnival Australia, and we will consider these comments to the fullest possible extent.
“Princess Cruises also welcomes the commission’s attention to improving information sharing and coordination among government agencies in the future.
“In our submission to the inquiry, we agreed that this area deserved consideration. We look forward to collaborating with government agencies and industry peers to improve these systems.
Swartz expressed the brand’s “profound sorrow” at the impact Covid-19 has had on Ruby Princess’s guests, crew and their families.
“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected, particularly those who lost loved ones," she said.
She added that Princess’s “overriding objective” was to ensure cruising is a safe and enjoyable pastime.
“We will now take some time to consider the commission’s findings. In the light of ongoing legal proceedings, we are not able to add to these comments at this time.”