Cruise ship doctor confirms sick on board

NSW Health has released emails between it and the Ruby Princess about two sick passengers.
NSW Health has released emails between it and the Ruby Princess about two sick passengers.

NSW Health has defended its actions to let passengers disembark from the Ruby Princess cruise ship after exchanging emails with the ship's physician and assessing the ship as "low risk."

NSW Health said in a statement on Friday the ship's doctor had confirmed there were two sick patients on board the vessel headed for Sydney who were being treated for influenza, despite testing negative to the infection.

Nine News reported on Friday that the ship's physician was told by NSW Health that the Ruby Princess did not require on board health assistance but asked for the 15 swabs taken from the two ill passengers to undergo COVID-19 testing.

"The risk assessment process recognised that there is no "no risk" setting for COVID-19, but balanced the level of risk against the benefit of removing passengers from a cruise ship on which the virus could be circulating," NSW Health said in response on Friday.

"The Ruby Princess was assessed as low risk, based on the level of illness on board, the negative COVID-19 tests done on passengers while in New Zealand, and the positive influenza tests done on a large proportion of the passengers with influenza-like illness.

"The ship reported to NSW Health there were 104 acute respiratory infections of which 36 people had presented to the ship's clinic with influenza like illness during the cruise and its numbers fell short of the definition of an 'outbreak'."

To date there have been 342 confirmed cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in NSW in passengers who are linked to the Ruby Princess cruise.

Australian Associated Press