Mandatory covid tests, daily temperature checks and a BAN on beloved all-you-can-eat buffets: How cruising may never be the same – as Australia looks to get boats back into Sydney Harbour by Christmas
- Cruises have been banned in Australia since March 18 amid Ruby Princess fiasco
- COVID-19 tests, masks, daily temperature checks could be the new normal
- Government and Cruise Lines International Association are working together
- It proposed quarantining of ships and crew after returning to Australian ports
- $ billion will be lost from the economy if the cruise ban continues into next year
Mandatory COVID-19 tests, masks, daily temperature checks and a ban on buffets could become the new normal on cruises ahead of plans to get ships back into Sydney Harbour by Christmas.
Cruises have been banned in Australia since March 18 after the Ruby Princess fiasco, when numerous contagious passengers disembarked at Circular Quay, and subsequently spread the virus across the country and overseas.
The cruise is thought to be the single biggest spreader of coronavirus in Australia, with the plagued ship linked to a minimum of 900 cases and 28 deaths.
But the suspension, which only allows ships with fewer than 100 passengers, is set to expire on December 17.
Mandatory COVID-19 tests, masks, daily temperature checks and a ban on buffets could become the new normal on cruises
The government and Cruise Lines International Association Australasia has been working together on a raft of measures to safely bring back domestic cruising in stages (pictured, temperature checks aboard a cruise at the start of the pandemic in February)
Cruise Lines International Association Australasia proposed quarantining of ships and crew after returning to Australian ports, passenger health declarations and contact history screening (pictured, checks abroad a ship in Singapore in November)
The government and Cruise Lines International Association Australasia has been working together on a raft of measures to safely bring back domestic cruising in stages.
International cruising will not restart, as Australian borders have been closed since March 20 and show no sign of reopening until late next year at the earliest.
The Association said a reduced capacity of passengers will allow for social distancing, The Daily Telegraph reports.
It also proposed quarantining of ships and crew after returning to Australian ports, passenger health declarations and contact history screening.
Cruise ships would also adopt measures followed by bars and restaurants, including the four square metre per person rule and hand sanitiser stations.
CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz said the Australian economy has taken an almost $2billion hit from the suspension of cruising.
Another $3billion will be lost from the economy if the ban continues into next year, the industry body predicted.
The ban on cruising has had a grave ripple effect on travel agents, tour operators, hotels, food suppliers, bus companies and baggage handlers.
‘We have a long history in cruising in Australia and we are proposing a phased measured approach for cruising to resume in the country safely,’ Mr Katz said.
‘In the COVID world, we see a much bigger appetite for domestic cruising, but we may be able to open a bubble such as with New Zealand or the South Pacific — we are having discussions with those governments as well.
‘We’ve done a lot of surveys of past passengers who are keen to cruise again. There is an expectations things will change on board. But the indication is that they will be happy to comply.’
The Ruby Princess – which was low on medical supplies and swabs for COVID-19 tests due to shortages – left Sydney on March 8 for New Zealand and returned 11 days later.
Cruise ships would also adopt measures followed by bars and restaurants, including the 4sq m per person rule and hand sanitiser stations (pictured, holidaymakers in Spain)
Cruises have been banned in Australia since March 18 amid the Ruby Princess (pictured, at Circular Quay on March 19) fiasco, when numerous contagious passengers disembarked at Circular Quay, and spread the virus across the country and overseas
Passengers disembarked before the results of 13 expedited tests showing at least three people had the virus on board the ship (pictured in April before it left Australia)
Despite the respiratory symptoms of numerous of those aboard and uncertainty surrounding test results, 2,700 passengers were permitted to disembark as the voyage had been deemed low risk by NSW health authorities.
This is because only 0.94 per cent of passengers presented to the ship’s medical centre with flu-like symptoms – not the one per cent required to mandate NSW Health intervention – and none had visited virus-hit countries China, Italy, Iran or South Korea.
Passengers disembarked before the results of 13 expedited tests showing at least three people had the virus.
Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco
March 18: The Ruby Princess issues an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of its passengers presenting with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney.
March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbour. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
March 25: Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for letting coronavirus patients disembark the ship.
March 29: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are sick and in self-isolation.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force and points the finger at the Ruby Princess. She claims staff onboard may have misled NSW Health about the extent of illnesses in passengers.
April 3: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton alleges Ruby Princess’ operators weren’t transparent about the health of crew: ‘It was ‘clear that some of the companies have been lying about the health of passengers and crew on board’.
April 4: Leaked emails show NSW Health knew of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before allowing its thousands of passengers to disembark.
April 5: A criminal investigation is launched into how passengers were able to disembark without health checks
April 8: A team of 30 detectives from state crime, counter terrorism and marine area command start investigating the handling of the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal. The first briefing into the investigation is held.
April 9: NSW Police clad in PPE equipment raid the vessel, questioning its captain and searching for evidence in a rapid escalation of the criminal investigation.
April 11: NSW Health confirms that at least 46 crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship have contracted COVID-19
April 13: NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says patient zero on board may have been a crew member serving meals to hundreds of passengers
April 15: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announces an independent special commission to investigate the Ruby Princess fiasco
April 23: With 500 crew left on board, the Ruby Princess left Australian waters to sail to Manila in the Phillipines