The special inquiry headed by leading silk Brett Walker hands in its report to the NSW State Government today – but that didn’t stop yet another shock revelation about the incident that eventually led to 22 deaths and some 700 cases of coronavirus.
According to the ABC, airlines executives who saw passengers disembarking the ship on March 22 were “horrified” and immediately made moves to try and stop them getting on their planes for fear they would spread cases of COVID-19.
Qantas and Virgin Australia officials independently decided to try and stop the passengers getting on planes. Many wanted to fly home after their cruise.
Virgin Australia called the Australian Border Force and asked for a list of passengers who planned to take a flight with the carrier. But, the ABC maintains, the ABF refused to hand over manifests.
“Flight QF7, later found to have 17 passengers from the Ruby Princess on board, was already eight hours into a nearly 16-hour flight from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth in the US,” the ABC reported.
One crew member was removed from a flight after being told there was the possibility of cruise ship passengers being aboard.
At one point, then Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Murphy and NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant became involved in the bid to halt the passengers from leaving.
On one flight to Honolulu, Qantas received a Border Force alert 50 minutes after the place had taken off with Ruby Princess passengers on board.
In the end, the airline received the manifest – over four days after the ships had berthed.
The inquiry into how almost 3,000 passengers were allowed off the Ruby Princess last march when there was sickness on board was the focus of the inquiry, which included evidence from Carnival Cruise Lines executives, Department of Health and Border Force officials.
It is expected to recommend changes in procedures when ships dock in future, and should resolve the dilemma of who has final responsibility for allowing passengers to disembark.
The government will decide about the report’s release in the coming days.