News Coronavirus Police to survey more than 5000 people in Ruby Princess coronavirus probe

Police to survey more than 5000 people in Ruby Princess coronavirus probe

The virus-plagued Ruby Princess won't going anywhere fast. Photo: AAP
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Police will sift responses from more than 5600 people via an online survey as part of the massive investigation into the coronavirus-hit Ruby Princess cruise ship.

Thousands of passengers will be sent the online questionnaires as NSW continues one of the state’s biggest-ever police investigations.

The NSW probe comes as a crew member from the virus-plagued Artania cruise ship died in a Perth hospital, taking Western Australia’s toll to seven and the national toll to 65.

There were 6522 virus cases around the country as of Saturday morning, as Australia continued to slow the rate of infection and buck the global trend.

There were more than 2.2 million coronavirus cases around the world, with more than 151,000 deaths.

The 2647 passengers who disembarked the Ruby Princess in Sydney on March 19, as well as the 2995 passengers on the preceding voyage that docked on March 8, will next week receive the survey quizzing them about what they saw and heard during the cruises.

Passengers who arrived home from the second Ruby Princess voyage to New Zealand were permitted to disembark without adequate health checks.

The ship is connected to 20 coronavirus deaths in Australia and hundreds of cases across the country.

Authorities handling the probe are investigating if criminal negligence took place by operator Princess Cruises or Ruby Princess crew members in the March 19 disembarkation of the ship, as well as any failures of NSW or Commonwealth departments.

They last week seized the ship’s black box and have interviewed crew members.

The NSW police online survey includes questions about who passengers travelled with, medical treatment and extra cleaning on board, ports travelled to, offshore tours and whether they had a set dining time or table every night.

Passengers are also asked if they’re aware of any fellow travellers or crew members being separated or quarantined, if there were any announcements about how to avoid contracting COVID-19 on board and if they took any photographs or videos on the cruise.

Police will then conduct interviews with those who give noteworthy responses, with a team of 30 detectives being led by the state’s homicide squad.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott on Friday told reporters police would conduct an investigation “like no other” and would need to work alongside overseas counterparts.

“There’s no rule book when it comes to these sorts of inquiries. It’s very unusual for something this large, across so many jurisdictions, to be put into the lap of one person,” Mr Elliott said.

A special commission of inquiry overseen by barrister Bret Walker SC is running in parallel to the police probe, and a coronial inquest remains a possibility.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith on Friday said Princess Cruises and parent company Carnival Australia had been providing information to police each day.

He declined to confirm earlier remarks by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who said the ship’s “patient zero” was likely a crew member involved in serving food.

Compulsory tracking

Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier refused to rule out making it mandatory for Australians to download and use a controversial tracking app to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Morrison said at least 40 per cent of the population would need to use the app – which is under development – to make it effective.

“My preference is to give Australians a go at getting it right,” he told Triple M on Friday.

“That’s my plan A and I really want plan A to work.”

The TraceTogether mobile phone app would help with better contact tracing – one of three main benchmarks the government wants to meet before strict coronavirus restrictions can be lifted.

The others are a broader testing regime and a greater capacity to quash local outbreaks.

tracking app scott morrison
The TraceTogether app is already in use in Singapore. Photo: Getty

The tracking app is based on one from Singapore, which tracks people’s movements with Bluetooth.

However, even in Singapore – considered a more compliant society than Australia’s – only 20 per cent of citizens have agreed to share their mobile phone data.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said work was ongoing to address privacy concerns around the app and the data it would store.

“We have to work to make sure this is as good and safe [as it can be] and cover off privacy concerns and so forth,” Professor Kelly said.

The Government has said the app, if successful, could lead to an early easing of social-distancing restrictions.

Crewman dies

Western Australian Health minister Roger Cook said that a 42-year-old man from the Philippines died at Royal Perth Hospital on Thursday.

“My thoughts and sympathies are with his family and friends and fellow crew members in what must undoubtedly be a very difficult time for them,” Mr Cook said.

The Artania has been docked in Fremantle for the past three weeks but its captain, Morten Hansen, confirmed the German liner was on track to leave on Saturday afternoon, adding the vessel was waiting for fresh provisions.

Earlier Friday it was confirmed that a 72-year-old man had died from coronavirus at Latrobe in Tasmania’s north-west.

-with AAP