Transportation workers’ advocates said on Wednesday that only a quarter of the 1,100 crew members had been tested, while other states were extending testing to anyone with even mild symptoms.
Nationally, there have been over 600 confirmed cases and 19 deaths from the coronavirus epidemic aboard Ruby Princess. So far, 149 crew members have tested positive on approximately 300 tests.
Dean Summers of the International Transport Workers’ Federation said it was hypocritical not to provide 100% testing on the ship, which is docked in Port Kembla, while the government of New South Wales was deploying mass tests in other parts of the state.
NSW Health has increased testing in various suburbs with high rates of coronavirus, by installing a mobile testing clinic on Bondi Beach. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday to residents of these suburbs, “If you have symptoms, please come in and take the test. New South Wales health chief Dr. Kerry Chant said on Thursday that the state was targeting anyone with mild symptoms who could be tested.
“There is no excuse,” Summers told Guardian Australia on Wednesday. “They can’t explain it. It’s contrary to what every person and healthcare professional in the world tells us.
“This is why they have mobile clinics in Bondi and throughout the metropolitan area, but when it comes to these poor people, they forget about them. “
A spokesperson for the private company responsible for providing medical services on the ship, Aspen Medical, said it could only test those approved by NSW Health.
NSW Health said Thursday that tests will be done for the entire team in the next 48 hours.
A spokesperson said asymptomatic crew members have not been tested before as it “can often lead to false negative results”. But that would now be changed to test everyone.
“The crew members were tested gradually, starting with those who developed the first symptoms,” said the spokesperson. “Testing people who have no symptoms of Covid-19 can often lead to false negative results. For this reason, NSW Health only tests people with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, dry cough or other respiratory symptoms.
” [But] In order to better understand if the crew developed immunity, we have extended the tests. Over the next 48 hours, we expect that all of the crew members who have not yet been tested – as they are currently asymptomatic – have been tested for Covid-19.
“So far, 149 crew members on board the Ruby Princess have tested positive for Covid-19 and 11 other crew members are at NSW health facilities with Covid-19. Although epidemiological evidence indicates that the virus has been transmitted to the ship, this appears to have slowed down. “
South Australia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Nicola Spurrier, said on Wednesday that anyone in this condition, even with “mild symptoms”, could be tested.
New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said he was “working towards” a “hopeful departure date” Sunday for the Ruby Princess.
Summers said Australia has a legal and humanitarian obligation to assist the crew members, who are quarantined in their cabins, by testing them, treating them and allowing them to return to their countries of origin.
He said that the operator of the Ruby Princess, Carnival Cruises, had confirmed that he was ready to pay the cost of repatriation.
“Some people have been locked up since April 20,” he said. “They are terrified. Some crew members are absolutely out of their minds and their families write to me from all over the world. “
He said the Uruguayan government had helped 112 Australians and New Zealanders stranded on the cruise ship Greg Mortimer. These passengers were evacuated from Montevideo and arrived in Melbourne on Sunday.
“It is doable,” said Summers. “The South Americans did it for us a few days ago. This is how Uruguayans treat our people. And how do we treat their people? We lock them up for 30 days. “
The New South Wales government has announced a special inquiry into the Ruby Princess docking, chaired by lawyer Bret Walker SC, and New South Wales police are also investigating.
Princess Cruises posted a full-page newspaper ad on Thursday saying it would support all inquiries.