NSW defends handling of Ruby Princess

NSW Health minister Brad Hazzard has defended the governments’s handling of the Ruby Princess as the state’s coronavirus count grew by 104.

During an at-times heated press conference on Saturday, Mr Hazzard said he was standing behind his staff who had allowed the cruise ship to disembark in Sydney on March 19.

The government is under fire for its handling of the affair after leaked emails revealed that results of on-board swab tests of passengers who were showing signs of influenza would have been available later that day.

“The NSW Health expert panel has assessed the Ruby Princess as NOT requiring on board health assessment in Sydney,” NSW Health said in the email.

A total of 622 passengers on board have tested positive for COVID-19 including 342 residing in NSW, with the handling of the affair to be investigated by NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller.

Test results which were revealed by the government on March 20 showed that four passengers had contracted the virus while on board but by that time 2647 people had left the ship.

Mr Hazzard said that NSW Health had worked “their hearts out” to keep the state safe.

“Can I just say that the experts who made the decision were the best in the world,” Mr Hazzard said.

“And the appropriate thing at this point is for the investigation to continue.

“Each of the staff of the Chief Health Officer who made the decision made it to the best of their ability. And those people are experts in their field.”

NSW Health said they were aware of 11 people who had contracted COVID-19 through close contact with Ruby Princess passengers.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said if they had known that coronavirus was on board the ship, they would have disembarked the passengers differently and moved them to self-isolation.

But she said that would have only prevented 11 cases of the virus.

“Cases that we could have averted by decanting people in a more ordered way with face masks and taking them directly to their homes, would have been in the order of 11,” Dr Chant said.

“The people that have acquired their infection on the cruise ship could not have been avoided and every period of time that people were on that cruise ship, there were actually at risk of more transmission on the cruise ship in a very, vulnerable age group. ”

NSW’s coronavirus total now sits a 2493.

The government also said it would ease restrictions on funerals, allowing 10 mourners to attend as well as those officiating the service.

© AAP 2020