The chief commissioner of an inquiry into the Ruby Princess has probed New South Wales (NSW) Health for failing to follow established protocols when it allowed passengers off the ship before a number of COVID-19 test results were known.
Currently, the Ruby Princess outbreak has been linked to 660 cases and 21 deaths from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
On May 5, the inquiry heard from NSW Health epidemiologist and coordinator of NSW Health’s cruise ship health program Kelly-Anne Ressler. Ressler admitted it was unacceptable that more people on the ship did not get tested for COVID-19.
“All I can say is that I’m very sorry it turned out the way it did. It was not our intention,” said Ressler.
“Myself and my colleagues at the public health unit were working very hard on this. We did what we could. And if we could do it again, it would be very different,” Ressler said while crying.
According to the inquiry, NSW Health had assessed the Ruby Princess as “low risk” for COVID-19 infections.
Speaking to 2GB Radio on May 6, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the chief commissioner’s tone when questioning Ressler was “aggressive” and “a bit out of line.”
“[Health workers] have been working day and night for months and months and months,” Morrison said. “They’re all trying to do their best.”
Speaking about the Ruby Princess incident on the Nine’s Today program that same day, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “There’s no doubt that horrible mistakes were made and that a number of authorities should have done better.”
“There’s no doubt that horrible mistakes were made and that a number of authorities should have done better.” NSW Premier @GladysB on Newmarch House’s 16th coronavirus death. #9Today pic.twitter.com/V25knvUIuS
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 5, 2020
NSW Police homicide squad is also conducting an investigation into the decision.
Newmarch Nursing Home Outbreak
Sixteen people have also died in Sydney from an outbreak at Anglicare’s Newmarch House nursing home.
The federal Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has been working with Newmarch House since the beginning of the outbreak to monitor and support it to meet its obligations as a provider.
On May 6, the commission said in a media release: “The Commission has escalated our enforcement as a consequence of continued evidence of lack of effective infection control, and of immediate and severe risk to the safety, health and well-being of residents at Newmarch House.”
The Australian reported on May 6 that there were concerns around health care standards at the nursing home. According to the paper, a contractor from Aspen Medical—the group hired by the federal government to staff the nursing home—had been stood down for breaching infection control measures.
The Australian also reported that a neighbour of Newmarch House revealed that disused and potentially infected personal protective equipment from the centre was found in his yard. It took “two days” for Anglicare to remove it.
According to the Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck, the outbreak at the nursing home began three weeks ago when a staff member worked six days in a row with a high viral load but mild symptoms.
Currently, Anglicare has stated that there are 37 residents and 26 staff members who have contracted the illness.
The inquiry into the Ruby Princess is ongoing.