The remaining crew members on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, linked to hundreds of cases of coronavirus in Australia, have arrived in the Philippines today.
According to an online ship tracker, the ship docked in the Philippines at 11 9.23 am (Sydney time). More than 400 crew members from over 20 countries sailed on to Manila from Port Kembla in late April.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship, linked to 21 coronavirus deaths and some 600 infections, is in the vicinity of Mindoro as of Thursday morning. The ship is expected to travel to the Manila Bay anchorage area, where it will dock.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has expressed concern for the ongoing safety of the crew on the ship. It said it has received unconfirmed reports that some people on the ship may be ill. It is anticipated the Philippines Coast Guard will test those on board for the virus, although the exact process for collecting swabs remains unclear. Those who test positive will be brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa,
Those who are cleared will be sent home with a medical certificate. They are not required to undergo a facility-based quarantine but are advised to go through a 14-day quarantine in their own homes as a precautionary measure.
Ship linked to 10 per cent of Australian cases
NSW Police has started a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the ship's arrival in Sydney. They want to know whether the operator of the Ruby Princess downplayed potential coronavirus cases before thousands of passengers disembarked in Sydney last month.
It was March 19 — about a week after the World Health Organisation had declared a global coronavirus pandemic — passengers and crew members on the Ruby Princess celebrated with a party on the day it docked at Circular Quay in Sydney unaware of the public health disaster that was about to happen.
Sydney turned on a spectacular afternoon, and while the cruise had been cut short because international borders were closing, the impression among some crew members was that the ship was free of COVID-19 after NSW Health allowed the nearly 2,700 passengers to disembark that morning.
But the next day, NSW Health would confirm that three passengers who had already disembarked and one crew member still on board had COVID-19. Six weeks after that, almost two dozen passengers have died and more than 600 passengers have tested positive to COVID-19. Two hundred crew members tested positive.
Princess Cruises maintains it adhered to all requirements and protocols at the time passengers disembarked despite several people on board having symptoms of, and being tested for, coronavirus.
At one point, 10 per cent of all cases in Australia could be linked to the Ruby Princess. Tasmanian authorities said it was most likely a passenger who contracted COVID-19 on the ship led to an outbreak of 114 cases in the state's north-west.
Enhanced Community Quarantine
Metro Manila and several provinces in the country are under enhanced community quarantine, restricting people's movement, but overseas Filipino workers are allowed to return as long as they undergo a 14-day quarantine before going back to their homes.
Nationwide, the number of COVID-19 cases breached the 10,000 marks on Wednesday, with 658 deaths and 1,506 recoveries.