A criminal investigation is expected into the conduct of cruise line operator Carnival Australia in the wake of the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal.
The NSW government is under fire after leaked emails revealed results of onboard swab tests from the cruise ship’s passengers who were showing signs of influenza would have been available the same day passengers disembarked.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard is standing behind his staff who had allowed the Ruby Princess cruise ship to disembark in Sydney on March 19, despite knowing the results would be known within hours.
A total of 622 passengers onboard have tested positive for COVID-19 including 342 NSW residents. Some of those passengers have since died, including three in NSW overnight.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday said NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller would lead an investigation into the fiasco.
It’s expected this will move into a criminal investigation into the conduct of Carnival Australia, relating to the cruise ship and its docking in Sydney, Sky News reported on Sunday.
Mr Fuller has scheduled a press conference at 3pm on Sunday.
Sky News says it’s aware of tapes of phone calls from Carnival Australia and the Ruby Princess to the NSW Ports Authority where the ship made it clear it didn’t believe there were cases of COVID-19 on board before it was given permission to dock.
The Sunday Telegraph reported a decision by the Port Authority of NSW to disallow the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney was overturned by the corporation after a call from a senior Carnival Australia official.
— Jennifer Bechwati (@jenbechwati) April 5, 2020
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, whose portfolio covers biosecurity, said society needed transparency.
“If the NSW Police are taking steps towards (the investigation) then they have information that would lead them to warrant that type of action and I would welcome that,” Mr Littleproud told Sky News on Sunday.
“We live in a fair and just society and it needs to be transparent, and any investigation that police and officials make should be backed by any investigation that’s required or whatever comes out of it obviously – I think we’ll wait and see.”
NSW Labor has called for Mr Hazzard to resign over the scandal, with the opposition labelling it “one of the greatest health disasters” in NSW history.
Carnival Australia has been contacted for comment.