A woman who died from COVID-19 after disembarking the Ruby Princess cruise ship had been told repeatedly by onboard health authorities she had the flu and it was “nothing to worry about,” an inquiry has been told.
Lesley Bacon was first struck down with “horrendous pain” in her left leg on March 12 and attended the ship’s medical clinic feeling less well four days later.
Brian Bacon was told his wife had the flu and would be kept in the vessel’s clinic overnight.
Josephine Roope on Monday recounted the timeline of her friend Bacon’s demise, to an inquiry examining the ship’s arrival in Sydney on March 19.
Despite returning a negative flu test, Bacon remained in the clinic until the end of the cruise.
Roope said she was informed by cruise ship senior doctor, lse von Watzdorf “it was only the flu, nothing to worry about.”
She said she asked twice on March 18 and again on March 19 what was wrong with her friend.
Bacon was one of two passengers taken by ambulance to Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She died a few days later.
Roope herself has never experienced any symptoms and on the advice of NSW Health has not been tested for the virus.
Earlier on Monday the inquiry heard from David Annesley who was also deterred from virus testing by the state’s health authorities.
Annesley developed mild symptoms after picking up his mother-in-law Helen Rhodes from the Ruby Princess at Circular Quay on March 19.
Rhodes tested positive to COVID-19 on the afternoon of March 23 after Annesley tried earlier that morning to be tested.
“Until your mother tests positive, there’s no need for you to come in,” was the message from health authorities as recounted by Annesley.
He was allowed to be tested the next day and produced a positive result.
Avid cruiser Lynda De Lamotte recounted the peculiar 2am arrival time of the Ruby Princess which left hundreds of passengers swarming on the dock in close proximity.
“We were given a different reason as to why we were docking at two o’clock in the morning,” De Lamotte said.
“What reason was that?” counsel assisting the inquiry Richard Beasley SC asked.
“The dock had become available to disembark and so they (Princess Cruises) were going to come in early and we thought that was unusual because we’d never come in at night time before … there’d be no taxi or anything at that short notice,” De Lamotte replied.
She tested positive on March 26 to COVID-19 but was asymptomatic. She only found out about the positive cases after watching the news on TV.
She told the inquiry she had no issues getting tested even though she displayed no symptoms and even asked health authorities if they had the “right people.”
More than 20 COVID-19 deaths across Australia have been linked to passengers who disembarked the Ruby Princess when it arrived in Circular Quay on March 19.
The inquiry continues on Tuesday with more evidence from the ship’s passengers.
By Ashlea Witoslawski