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Covid-19 stricken cruise ship docks in Sydney amid rise in cases

File photo: The ship is scheduled to stay in Sydney for one day before returning to Queensland's capital, Brisbane. Picture: AP

File photo: The ship is scheduled to stay in Sydney for one day before returning to Queensland's capital, Brisbane. Picture: AP

Published Jul 13, 2022

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Sydney: A Covid-19-stricken cruise ship docked in Australia's most populous city Sydney on Wednesday morning, adding fear to the state of New South Wales (NSW), which is battling with a new wave of the infections.

The Coral Princess ship, which departed from the state of Queensland, docked at the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay, a central Sydney transport hub.

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There were more than 2 000 people on board, and more than 100 passengers and staff tested Covid-19 positive. Those on board who tested positive have been isolated on the ship.

Other passengers wishing to disembark were required to have a negative result on a rapid antigen test and advised to wear masks while off the ship, the NSW Health (ministry of health) said on Wednesday.

"The vast majority of Covid-19 cases on the ship are currently in crew members. All Covid-positive people and their close contacts are isolating and being cared for by the onboard medical team," said an NSW Health spokesperson.

Despite this, some passengers have reported their negative rapid tests were not checked upon disembarking on Wednesday morning. The ship is scheduled to stay in Sydney for one day before returning to Queensland's capital, Brisbane.

The incident has elicited memories of Australia's first super-spreader event which happened on board a sister ship, the Ruby Princess cruise liner, in March 2020.

About 2 700 passengers were allowed to disembark in central Sydney without sufficient screening, and at least 900 people later tested positive and 28 died.

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Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology University of South Australia, Professor Adrian Esterman told Xinhua on Wednesday that the difference this time was that the cruise required all crew and passengers to be fully vaccinated.

He said that despite the requirement of negative rapid antigen tests when boarding and disembarking, the poor accuracy of the tests would limit the ability to sufficiently screen those on board.

"If all passengers and crew had to have a rapid PCR test before embarking and disembarking, I think that this would make cruising much safer," he said, referring to a rapid PCR test that has just been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration , Australia's federal medical regulatory agency.

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He added that with the high rates of Covid-19 in the state, any positive passengers from the ship would make little difference in the scheme of things.

Health authorities have warned that the state is at the beginning of a third Omicron wave from the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which they have predicted would peak in late July or early August.

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