Australia Agriculture officers did not conduct coronavirus health checks as required on Ruby Princess

08:08  18 august  2020
08:08  18 august  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Landing orders for the Ruby Princess noted that there were orders for the testing of swabs from 13 passengers. Officer O told the ship's purser "These documents show that it was Federal Department of Agriculture officers that did not conduct the appropriate and required health checks to detect

Ruby Princess coronavirus cases could 'double or triple' in next few days, expert says. He said NSW Health had requested that Ruby Princess send the 15 samples to a NSW Health We need to ask, we need to demand to know how this happened and we need to ensure it does not happen again.

Officers from the Department of Agriculture did not follow proper processes when inspecting the Ruby Princess, neglecting to conduct health checks on passengers before they were let off the coronavirus-struck ship.

The special commission of inquiry examining the bungled disembarkation of infected passengers handed down its report on Friday, finding blame primarily lay with NSW Health for several "serious mistakes", including classifying the ship as low risk.

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In the case of the Ruby Princess there were ill patients on board showing flu-like symptoms and Border Force blames NSW Health for letting Ruby Princess dock without coronavirus checks . One can see how this might have happened. Outram said there were just six ABF officers to disembark 2

The Ruby Princess has been linked to hundreds of cases and more than 20 coronavirus -related deaths across Australia. 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

But when the ship docked in March, federal authorities from the Department of Agriculture and the Australian Border Force (ABF) were present.

A national protocol required Agriculture officers to complete Traveller with Illness checklists if unwell passengers were reported.

But today department secretary Andrew Metcalfe told the Senate's COVID-19 committee that did not happen.

"There were local arrangements in place in Sydney that were heavily reliant upon the interplay between my department, the Department of Health in NSW and the doctors on the ship," he said

"In hindsight, the national protocol was not followed and the officers believed that they were exercising their responsibilities appropriately through the communication that did occur with the NSW Health Department."

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The Ruby Princess is Australia's largest source of coronavirus infections. (ABC News: Justin Huntsdale). A NSW Health official has broken down in tears while apologising for the government department's failures in dealing with the Ruby Princess coronavirus outbreak.

The Princess Cruises-operated Ruby Princess ship returned to Sydney on Thursday with 2,647 passengers on board - all were allowed to disembark without. Since then, at least 133 passengers have tested positive for coronavirus and one woman, aged in her 70s, has died of the illness.

He said his officers had relied on discussions with NSW Health in their assessment, rather than speaking to the ship's doctor.

"[Aren't Agriculture health checks] supposed to be the last line of defence to detect the very type of outbreak we were seeing on board the Ruby Princess?" Labor senator Kristina Keneally asked.

"That arrangement was part of an overall scheme which obviously failed in multiple places," Mr Metcalfe responded.

"Our officers adopted a local practice at the port of Sydney, that is a clear lesson that has been learned."

Mr Metcalfe told the inquiry his officers were responsible for granting pratique — or permission to disembark — but he was unable to say precisely when or which of the two biosecurity officers present granted pratique.

He later said that even in an informal sense, pratique was granted because his officers did not attempt to stop passengers from leaving the ship.

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* The small number of swabs taken on Ruby Princess and available for testing "represented a But when a risk assessment was conducted on March 18, authorities did not have the updated * NSW Health failed to ensure that cruise ships were aware of this change to the definition of a "suspect

Health minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant also apologised. The federal government launched a new ad campaign targeted at young people, who might not get severe coronavirus symptoms but can spread the virus to more vulnerable people.

Border Force rejects misreading of test results contributed to disaster

The NSW commission of inquiry rejected the notion an ABF officer's misreading of passengers' test results, as revealed by the ABC, played a direct role in the disembarkation of passengers.

The ABF has always maintained its officers have no legislated responsibility for human biosecurity. It today led to questions about why its staff were being asked to examine test results and report back to superiors.

ABF commissioner Michael Outram said his officers did not have any power to examine the materials or make decisions relating to them, arguing his officers were just trying to be "helpful".

"I think my officers were just trying to be diligent," he said.

"They had no legislative basis to do it, they were trying to be helpful.

"Had they unearthed some information that was indicative of a problem, I've got no doubt they would have contacted my colleagues at Agriculture."


But he also said the result would "probably not" have been different if the officer had properly understood 11 passengers in isolation had not been cleared of COVID-19.

"Had the officer become concerned for any reason, they would have made a phone call … [the] issue would have been elevated if there were concerns," he said.

"The fact that he misread COVID test negative or influenza test negative — he has no medical training, he wouldn't know the difference really.

"I'm not going to criticise my officers for trying to be helpful."

He flatly rejected Senator Keneally's suggestion the officer's work outside of their legislative role could have contributed to confusion on the ground.

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This is interesting!