Australia Says ‘Protocols in Place’ as 800 COVID-Infected Passengers Disembark From Cruise Ship

A cruise ship carrying about 800 passengers infected with the novel coronavirus docked to disembark in Sydney on Nov. 12, with Australia’s Home Affairs Minister assuring the public that there are “protocols in place” to contain the situation.

The Majestic Princess cruise ship docked in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales (NSW), carrying 3,300 passengers and 1,000 crew, of which 800 on board have tested positive for the virus, cruise operator Carnival Australia told reporters.

All staff and passengers 12 years and older were “fully vaccinated,” according to state governments requirements for cruising. Passengers also must have returned a negative PCR test within 48 hours before boarding and a negative RAT test. Crew undergo regular testing.

Marguerite Fitzgerald, president of Carnival Australia, said passengers infected with the virus were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and were isolated in their rooms.

“This is a 12-day voyage and we started to see elevated cases about halfway through,” she told local media.

NSW Health rated the risk level for the Majestic Princess as “Tier Three,” indicating a high level of transmission, and said that it has been liaising with the cruise operator before and throughout the outbreak.

“Carnival, the cruise operator, has advised NSW Health that all COVID-positive people are isolating and being cared for by the onboard medical team,” it said in a statement, adding that Carnival will assist infected passengers to make safe onward travel arrangements.

Carnival Australia has been operating cruises for the last six months.

Fitzgerald said that passengers disembarking from the ship had undertaken a rapid antigen test in the last 24 hours, and would disembark in two groups: those testing negative and those testing positive. Everyone disembarking is required to be masked, “regardless of COVID status,” she added.

Commenting on the situation, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said that NSW Health would take the lead in managing how they will assist the passengers and handle disembarkation “on a case-by-case basis.”

“I would say that there’s regular protocols in place that have arisen out of the Ruby Princess and I’m sure NSW Health will be out and about later today to answer questions about the decisions that they’ve made,” she told reporters.

“The role of Border Force here is supplementary to the lead on the health issues,” the minister added.

The outbreak comes as Omicron cases rise across Australia, reflecting community transmission of the variant XBB, according to the federal government.

“We are also closely monitoring the overseas transmission of a second Omicron variant—BQ.1,” Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’a chief medical officer, said in a statement.

“While evidence is still emerging, the experience to date with these two variants overseas is that they do not appear to pose a greater risk of severe illness and death—and that the COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection against these outcomes.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in early October that rising case numbers in Europe were likely indicating the start of another wave of COVID-19 infections. The United States has also recorded an increase in cases.

Reuters contributed to this report.


Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.

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