As reported by The Australian Health officials in NSW are now running around urgently trying to contact the 2700 passengers who disembarked from a cruise ship in Sydney on Thursday.
Testing was done on more than a dozen people complaining of flu-like symptoms on board, returning four positive matches for COVID-19.
The question is now obvious, what was the reasoning behind giving a free pass to almost 3000 individuals to casually wander off and begin another mini- epidemic throughout NSW and beyond. And now that we are seeing a major explosion in cases across the country, why did we not test a few hundred or if possible the whole ship??
Details of these efforts were released on Friday, long after the passengers had dispersed into Sydney and some interstate, along with updated data revealing 75 new cases had been recorded overnight, the steepest one-day increase in NSW since testing began.
NSW, which now has at least 382 known cases of COVID-19, accounts for the highest number of infections nationwide and an increasing daily growth rate – from 37 cases on Monday to 50 cases on Wednesday.
It also accounts for more fatalities than any other state: an 81-year-old woman was confirmed by NSW Health as the sixth death on Friday. She had been in close contact with another confirmed case of COVID-19 linked to Ryde Hospital, where initial cases had been treated, a statement said.
Again case case cluster cluster….
Nationwide there were 784 cases recorded as of yesterday (Friday) now a total number of 931, but this has since been overshadowed by a new update today with Queensland reporting 184 cases and Victoria reporting 229. These numbers are not letting up, and are almost certain to increase.
Mr Hazzard said the Ruby Princess cruise ship docked in Sydney with more than 3800 people on board, including 1100 crew members and 2700 passengers, who disembarked as COVID-19 testing was being conducted.
They were required to leave their email addresses and telephone numbers with Australian Border Force officials, he said, in order for contact to be made in case of an emergency. Authorities are now trying to track down these people and ensure they remain in quarantine for 14 days, as they were instructed.
“Our big concern is that those people came off the cruise with no knowledge of COVID being on the ship, and, if they think it’s OK to be wandering around, the clear message from me as NSW Health Minister is: No, it’s not, put yourself immediately into quarantine,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Getting to 2700 people is a bit of a journey. Some people haven’t responded,” he said.
The Ruby Princess had been on a return voyage to New Zealand from Australia; as of Friday it remained off the coast of Sydney towards Wollongong.
Four people were diagnosed including one crew member, two passengers in their 70s who are being treated at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and a fourth currently being cared for by the Tasmanian health system, Mr Hazzard said.
“There may be other passengers on board that ship who could have had the COVID virus, and those people, if they’re following the instructions that were given to them … then they’ll be at home in quarantine for 14 days — and that would present no concerns whatsoever to us in NSW.”
A statement issued by the Tasmanian Government said 54 passengers on board the ship were from that the state.
Dr Kerry Chant, the NSW chief health officer, said another four infections had been identified among 300 congregants who attended a Sydney Church of Christ service at Ryde Civic Hall on March 8.
“Should anyone be unwell, seek assessment. Your risk for COVID-19 is slightly increased,” she said.
Mr Hazzard warned that social distancing measures were not being heeded rigorously enough in the community, particularly among young people.
Of the 382 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in NSW, the majority remain below the age of 50; the highest proportion are aged in the 30-39 age group, according the most recent NSW Health figures.
Mr Hazzard commented on the media report of young people blithely relaxing in close proximity to each other on Sydney’s Bondi Beach had been disappointing.
“This is no time to be ignoring what is a very serious issue,” he said.
NSW Health confirmed another resident of Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge, an aged care facility, had also been diagnosed with the COVID-19, and that infection control measures were being taken. Time has not dissipated the risk of infection.
The age care facility had already been at the centre of a cluster of cases involving staff, residents and their associated contacts, as well as the death of a 90-year-old resident last weekend, making this a place of high risk.