Virus-stricken cruise ship noted as Australia’s Covid-19 ‘super spreader’ heads for Manila

A Filipino crew member on the the Ruby Princess displays a Philippine flaglet as the ship departs from Port Kembla in Wollongong, Australia. (AP Photo/Rick Rycrof)

The cruise ship notorious for being Australia’s Covid-19 ‘super spreader’ is heading to Manila, Philippines.

Ruby Princess, already the subject of a criminal investigation after it became Australia’s largest single source of coronavirus infections set off from the Australian shores with about 500 on board just before 5:00 p.m. (Sydney Time) on Thursday, April 23, a month after it was ordered by police to leave.

Manned mostly by a Filipino crew, the Ruby Princess has been linked to 21 deaths in Australia and more than 700 COVID-19 cases or more than 10 per cent of all cases in the nation. Australia has recorded 75 coronavirus deaths. A government inquiry is underway into why 2,700 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19 before the test results of sick passengers were known.

Two passengers died after returning home in the United States. So far, more than 190 crew have tested positive for Covid-19 and the 1,100 crew have been in varying lengths of quarantine on board for weeks.
According to a report by The Guardian, the Filipino crew on board the Ruby Princess say they are worried for their health and have been “left in the dark” as the virus-hit cruise ship left for Manila to bring them home.

Crew members are seen giving ‘thumbs up’ out the window as they finally start their long journey home. (AAP)
The Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was the source of hundreds of Australia’s Coronavirus cases, departs Port Kembla, NSW, with its remaining crew. (Photo from 9News/Janie Barrett)

The ship is operated by Princess Cruises , a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., which is incorporated in Bermuda and headquartered in California.

Earlier on Thursday, more than 300 Filipino crew free from the virus disembarked and were taken to Sydney Airport by coach, where they were set to fly home to Manila in the evening. They traveled from Port Kembla, south of Sydney, in 40 buses to observe strict social distancing rules enforced in Australia.

Australia’s Health authorities said everyone who remains on board has been cleared of the virus.

“We’ve had the isolation procedures long enough, we’ve not seen new cases, we also understand the medical capability on this ship, so for all of those reasons, we have formed the view that the ship is now in a position to set sail,” New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant was quoted as saying in a report by Idahonews.

The Philippine Foreign Service Posts in Australia and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) said it continued to work closely with the manning agencies and state and federal authorities to ensure the health and safe repatriation of the Filipino crew of the cruise ships.

Relatives in the Philippines who wished to get more detailed information on the condition of individual Filipino crew members have been advised to get in touch with the relevant manning agencies in the Philippines as follows:
Ruby Princess – Magsaysay Maritime Corporation (Domingo Fua: +632 85269645 / jun.fua@magsaysay.com.ph)
Golden Princess – Magsaysay Maritime Corporation (Domingo Fua: +632 85269645/ jun.fua@magsaysay.com.ph) Artania – Five Star Marine Services Corp. (Mr. Francis Nico Gutierrez: +632 5739481/ francis.nico@fivestarmarinecorporation.com); and BSM Crew Service Centre Phils. Inc. (Capt. Armando Santosidad +632 85165640 Loc. 7703 / Armando.Santosidad@bs-shipmanagement.com).

The Philippine Foreign Service Posts in Australia has assured that it is committed in upholding the welfare and safety of Filipinos in Australia.

Ruby Princess is under investigation by the State police whether its management downplayed potential virus cases before passengers disembarked.

Based on reports, several passengers flew from Sydney overseas. Two passengers died after returning home in the United States, including 64-year-old Los Angeles resident Chung Chen, whose family is suing Princess Cruises for more than $1 million for failing to alert passengers to the risk. 
Last April 3, the Philippine Embassy in Canberra informed the public that Filipino crew members are onboard the following cruise ships in Australia: Ruby Princess in New South Wales, Golden Princess in Victoria, and Artania in Western Australia.