Daily US Times, Sydney: Australia has launched a criminal investigation into how cruise ship passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney despite some exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
More than 600 passengers of Ruby Princess later confirmed positive for coronavirus and 10 have since died.
The ship remains off the coast, carrying nearly 200 sick crew members on board.
New South Wales police have now said they launched a criminal investigation and would look into whether national biosecurity laws had been broken.
Australia has so far reported 30 deaths and 5,548 coronavirus cases, while those sickened on cruise ships account for nearly a tenth of all cases in the country.
The country has imposed strict social distancing measures and gyms, cafes, clubs, and parks have been closed in a bid to contain the outbreak.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said at a news conference that there were “many unanswered questions” about the incident.
Mentioning relative laws, the commissioner said, vessels were only allowed to dock and disembark passengers if the captain could assure the local authorities that their ship was free from contagious disease.
Mr Fuller said there were “discrepancies” involving the information provided by the ship’s owners, Carnival Australia, and the requirements of the law.
He told reporters, ””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.”
Mr Fuller said a worker made an emergency call about two people who needed medical assistance a day before passengers disembarked in Sydney.
Police were assured by the operating company that the coronavirus was not an issue on the ship, he said, adding that “From that perspective, there are many unanswered questions.”
The New South Wales government has faced mounting criticism for allowing people off the ship but has insisted that the decision was based on expert advice.
Mr Fuller added that Carnival Australia had said it would fully co-operate with the inquiry but the company has not yet commented publicly.
Last month after an 11-day cruise, the Ruby Princess with about 2,700 people on board arrived in Sydney.
About a dozen passengers had reported feeling unwell and had swabs taken for Covid-19. One was taken by ambulance to hospital, according to NSW Health.
But other passengers on board weren’t told of this. Instead, they streamed off the boat at Circular Quay – some of them coughing and spluttering, according to witnesses.
You may read: New York registers record single-day death toll