Police in Australia have announced plans for a criminal investigation into the disembarkation of passengers from Ruby Princess.
More than 600 passengers who were on board have tested positive for the coronavirus since it docked. To date 11 passengers have died, just over a third of the total number of deaths in Australia.
Police in New South Wales have now launched a criminal probe into whether national biosecurity laws were broken.
The investigation will look into the actions of the port authority, ambulance service, police, NSW Health and Ruby Princess parent Carnival Australia.
Police told a press conference it was clear coronavirus came off the ship, with some passengers taken to hospital after it docked with flu-like symptoms.
New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller was reported as saying: “The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”
Ships are allowed to dock and disembark if local authorities are assured by the captain that ships are free from contagious disease, he said.
Police said Carnival Australia had promised to fully co-operate in the investigation and provide any information necessary.
It is understood that no cases of the virus were identified before it docked in Sydney but that passengers and crew tested positive after it had docked.
To date Australia has reported 5,548 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths.
The ship, with almost 200 of the 1,400 crew showing symptoms, was allowed to dock at Port Kembla near Wollongong on Monday and is expected to stay for up to ten days to allow health officials and doctors to help.
The New South Wales governmnet is working with Carnival Australia to try and reptriate the crew form 50 countries, who remain in isolation.
NSW police said the ship will be refuelling and restocking provisions, as required for its home journey.
“The berthing will be conducted under strict health and biosecurity guidelines and will not pose a risk to employees at the port or the broader community,” a statement said.