Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is seeking legal advice as to whether the Ruby Princess cruise ship met its obligations to ensure Covid-19 was not leaked into New Zealand.
“Of course we are now suffering the consequences of cases here in New Zealand because of that cruise ship,” Ardern told media this afternoon.
Yesterday, it was revealed a crew member from northern Italy – where the virus had already spread rapidly – joined the ship in Dunedin on March 12 after flying via Auckland.
After stopping in Dunedin, the ship – which came from Sydney – docked in Christchurch, Wellington and Hawke’s Bay before returning to Sydney on March 19.
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Ten passengers from the Ruby Princess have died since the ship docked in Sydney and allowed 2700 passengers to disembark despite some onboard having Covid-19 symptoms.
Today, Ardern said she had asked Trade Minister David Parker to seek legal advice from Crown law as to whether or not the Ruby Princess, while in New Zealand for three days, met all of its obligations under our laws.
She said she had been advised by the company that assurances were directly sought from their medical officer of health from the captain directly before passengers disembarked.
“Because we have Covid-19 transmission that directly links back to that ship, not from passengers but from people who had contact with passengers, that raises significant questions so I have sought legal advice around that.”
A Napier couple told the Herald they were not told by cruise ship authorities there was an outbreak of Covid-19 onboard the Ruby Princess when they disembarked in Sydney.
The next day, Andrew and June Ranyard started to experience coronavirus symptoms.
After setting off on an 11-day voyage on March 8, the ship was forced to return to Sydney early, from Napier, after a handful of passengers started to feel unwell with respiratory symptoms.
There have been at least 16 New Zealand virus cases linked to the ship – including shore-based workers in Hawke’s Bay.
New South Wales authorities have been slammed for the decision to allow the passengers to freely disembark the cruise ship when it docked in Sydney on March 19.
It’s considered one of the biggest “disasters” in Australia’s fight against the pandemic.
On Sunday, more than 620 passengers had tested positive for Covid-19. The number accounts for 10 per cent of Australia’s confirmed cases.
“There are 10 deaths relating from the Ruby,” Fuller said at a press conference. “That’s a significant amount of deaths for one incident.”