Four people on-board the Ruby Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus (pictured at Circular Quay on Thursday 19 March 20) after it docked in Sydney

Coronavirus cruise ship Ruby Princess was allowed to dock in Sydney 2 weeks ago despite 158 people reporting sick before ALL passengers and crew were allowed to disembark

  • Four people a cruise ship that docked in Sydney tested positive to COVID-19 
  • Health officials are phoning the thousands of passengers person-by-person 
  • There were 158 passengers who fell sick on vessel during earlier voyage 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Health bosses let thousands of cruise ship passengers disembark in Sydney even though 158 were feeling sick during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The passengers – including 13 with high temperatures – disembarked from The Ruby Princess in Sydney Harbour on March 8.

Then the ship continued and picked up 2,700 new passengers and set sail for New Zealand just hours later.

In the following days, only nine of the 158 passengers were tested for COVID-19. All were negative.

On 19 March the ship docked again at Sydney Harbour after the New Zealand trip and this time four passengers tested positive for the deadly virus.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia surged over 1,000 on Saturday

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia surged over 1,000 on Saturday

Two of those cases were a couple who flew to Darwin before testing positive.

When the ship arrived on 8 March after the first voyage, the captain told NSW Vessel Traffic Services there were ‘no ill passengers or crew on board’, according to an email seen by The Australian.

The Port Authority is concerned that now it cannot trust the captains of ships when they say nobody is ill.


New South Wales: 436

Victoria: 229

Queensland: 221

Western Australia: 90

South Australia: 67

Tasmania: 16

Australian Capital Territory: 9

Northern Territory: 5



The email sent by a Port Authority General Manager on 13 March expressed ‘concerns about whether we can, in general, rely on the declaration from the Master of the vessel.’

The ship’s owner is reviewing how the discrepancy came about.

An NSW Health spokesman, said: ‘NSW Health met the ship on March 8, conducted an on-board assessment for Influenza and COVID-19 on more than 360 people who identified as feeling unwell or who presented a recognisable risk through their travel history at the time.

‘Nine people who showed potential COVID-19 symptoms were isolated, tested for COVID-19, and these tests were negative.’

NSW chief medical officer Kerry Chant said the ship had been considered ‘low risk’ before the diagnoses.

When the ship docked on March 19,  doctors tested 13 unwell patients for COVID-19.

Four cruise ship passengers test positive to COVID-19
The cruise liner had been considered 'low risk' after a short cruise from Australia to New Zealand

The cruise liner had been considered ‘low risk’ after a short cruise from Australia to New Zealand

The ship is currently far off the coast of Sydney with the 1,100 crew aboard, including the one member of staff who tested positive.

“The company that owns that Ruby Princess is managing the issue,” said Hazzard.

Travellers who return from overseas or are exposed to coronavirus are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days, but some of the passengers may not yet know about the positive tests.

“The very big concern, is that those people came off the cruise with no knowledge of COVID actually being on their ship,” said Hazzard.

Operator Princess Cruises did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Question Time:

Why were only nine of the 158 passengers tested for COVID-19. Great to hear ALL were negative.

But what about the other 149 passengers who felt ill? That’s around 6% of the ill passengers tested.

‘Man the life boats….’