Ruby Princess passengers have been warned of a possible new infection after a crew member was diagnosed with tuberculosis. 

NSW Health sent out an alert to all Ruby Princess passengers who were on board the cruise ship between March 8 – 19. 

The crew member was diagnosed with tuberculosis weeks after passengers were on the cruise.  

They are currently being treated in Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.  

Cruise ship passengers disembark from the Princess Cruises owned Ruby Princess at Circular Quay in Sydney, Thursday, March 19, 2020

However, passengers have been told they are at low risk of contracting tuberculosis. 

‘Most importantly, there is no reason to believe you are at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis from being on the cruise ship,’ the NSW Health update read. 

Tuberculosis of symptoms feel tired and unwellhave a bad cough that lasts at least 3 weekslose weighthave a fever and sweat in bed at nightcough up blood in the sputum (phlegm)have chest painshave swollen lymph glands

 Source: Health Direct

‘You do not need to take any action as a result of this information, and you do not need to be screened at this time.’ 

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that damages people’s lungs or other parts of the body and can cause serious illness and death. 

The disease is spread through the air when a person with active tuberculosis disease spreads the bacteria by sneezing, shouting, speaking or singing and other people nearby breathe in the bacteria.

The news comes as NSW continues to recover from the ill-fated Ruby Princess debacle which saw coronavirus spread in March.

With the ship docked in Sydney, 2,700 passengers were allowed to freely disembark the ship, leading to more than 600 cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths.  

A criminal investigation into the matter is ongoing. 

The Ruby Princess cruise ship is seen docked at at the Overseas Passenger Terminal on March 19

Cruise ship passengers disembark from the Princess Cruises owned Ruby Princess at Circular Quay in Sydney, Thursday, March 19

A Carnival Australia port agent has told the Ruby Princess special inquiry the ship was supposed to arrive in Sydney at 6am on March 19 but instead arrived at 2.30am.

Dobrila Tokovic told the commission it was her responsibility to collect 13 swabs from the ship’s medical centre and take them to a nearby driver.

Three of the tests were positive, but NSW Health officials, who did not board the ship, had already allowed the 2700 passengers to disembark, return to their homes around Australia and self-isolate for 14 days.

The ship has since been linked with 21 deaths and more than 600 positive cases, including an outbreak in Tasmania.

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 7,184

New South Wales: 3,092

Victoria: 1,645

Queensland: 1,058

Western Australia: 585

South Australia: 440

Tasmania: 228

Australian Capital Territory: 107

Northern Territory: 29

TOTAL CASES: 7,184

RECOVERED: 6,584

DEATHS: 103

Ms Tokovic said earlier conversations had suggested NSW Health would board the ship as they had done when its previous cruise disembarked in Sydney on March 8.

She was told in the hours before the ship’s arrival they would not board, but said she wasn’t overly surprised by this decision.

‘Having 100 people unwell for the duration of a cruise would not stand out as a significant number where I would go ‘oh wow they’ve got an outbreak’,’ Ms Tokovic said.

Ms Tokovic also said it was her responsibility to organise an ambulance for two unwell passengers as instructed by the ship’s administration officer and onboard doctor.

She said she received a call the previous evening from the doctor, Ilse von Watzdorf, who recommended ambulance personnel take special precautions when treating the patients, who had been swabbed for COVID-19.

The commission also heard from NSW Ambulance’s Simeon Pridmore, who was escorted onto the ship by Ms Tokovic to collect one of the two passengers needing an ambulance.

Mr Pridmore said at the commission he’d been warned before boarding of COVID-19 concerns and was told 11 other people had been swabbed and were in isolation.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship is seen docked at Port Kembla on April 23, 2020 in Wollongong

HOW CRUISE SHIPS HAVE BECOME HOTBEDS FOR THE CORONAVIRUS

The Diamond Princess cruise ship was at the centre of the early beginnings of the coronavirus outbreak in February. 

Japan forced the Diamond Princess cruise ship into quarantine at the port of Yokohama after hundreds contracted coronavirus. 

At least seven people who were on board the vessel died. 

Diamond Princess cruise ship seen above at Yokohama Port near Tokyo on February 26

From 15 March, all international cruise ships were banned by the Australian government from sailing into or out of Australian ports for 30 days.

On March 19, the Ruby Princess arrived in Sydney Harbour and more than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks. 

Around 700 of its passengers have since tested positive for COVID-19, with many more put at risk – accounting for around 10 per cent of all Australia’s cases.

So far, 19 passengers from the cruise liner have died of COVID-19. 

A criminal investigation was launched on April 5 into how passengers were able to disembark without checks.

Cruise ships around the world have struggled to find somewhere to dock during the coronavirus pandemic as countries close their ports to the vessels.

NSW Port Authority senior manager Robert Rybanic also told the hearing Carnival’s senior director of port operations Paul Mifsud said ‘it was business as usual.’

‘He said that NSW Health had deemed the ship a low risk ship and also that it wasn’t a COVID ship and the ambulances weren’t related to COVID,’ Mr Rybanic said.

Commissioner Bret Walker SC questioned how anyone could confirm the Ruby Princess wasn’t a ‘COVID ship’ before the swab tests results had come back.

‘I just took that as the best information that he had … I didn’t pursue that any further,’ Mr Rybanic said in response.

Duty harbourmaster that day Cameron Butchart, told the commission he had health and safety concerns in regards to sending a pilot to help the ship dock and offered to ‘turn it around.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, said Mr Walker’s earlier aggressive questioning of a NSW Health epidemiologist was ‘out of line’.

NSW Health senior epidemiologist Kelly-Anne Ressler was reduced to tears when it was suggested there had been a ‘reprehensible shortcoming’ by the department when passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney.

‘I found that very distressing … our nurses and doctors and first responders, they’re all doing a great job, but also spare a thought for our public health officials,’ Mr Morrison told 2GB Radio.

‘We’ve got to get to the truth of this stuff but my first blush on that one, and that’s not to call into question the independence of the commission, but I found that a bit out of line.’

The special commission will continue to hear evidence on Friday and is expected to deliver its final report by mid-August.  

Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco

March 18: The Ruby Princess issues an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of its passengers presenting with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney. 

March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbour. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks. 

March 25: Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for letting coronavirus patients disembark the ship.

March 29: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are sick and in self-isolation.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force and points the finger at the Ruby Princess. She claims staff onboard may have misled NSW Health about the extent of illnesses in passengers.

April 3: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton alleges Ruby Princess’ operators weren’t transparent about the health of crew: ‘It was ‘clear that some of the companies have been lying about the health of passengers and crew on board’.

April 4: Leaked emails show NSW Health knew of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before allowing its thousands of passengers to disembark. 

April 5: A criminal investigation is launched into how passengers were able to disembark without health checks 

April 8: A team of 30 detectives from state crime, counter terrorism and marine area command start investigating the handling of the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal. The first briefing into the investigation is held.

April 9: NSW Police clad in PPE equipment raid the vessel, questioning its captain and searching for evidence in a rapid escalation of the criminal investigation.

April 11: NSW Health confirms that at least 46 crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship have contracted COVID-19

April 13: NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says patient zero on board may have been a crew member serving meals to hundreds of passengers 

April 15: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announces an independent special commission to investigate the Ruby Princess fiasco

April 23: With 500 crew left on board, the Ruby Princess left Australian waters to sail to Manila in the Phillipines 



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