Mission to get trapped Ruby Princess crew home
Princess Cruises is frantically marshalling its fleet to get 1056 crew members off the Ruby Princess as it's been revealed food will be externally sourced as kitchen and hospitality staff on board are showing symptoms of coronavirus.
NSW Health confirmed at least 52 positive COVID-19 cases on board and more than 150 showing signs of respiratory illness and high temperatures.
Some of the sick have been preparing, serving and distributing food to other crew, even those in isolation.
The ship, which was scheduled to set sail on Thursday, started a new 14-day lockdown since the fresh cases were confirmed on Friday.
The ship docked in Port Kembla on Monday morning, under the direction of the Australian Border Force with facilitation from NSW Police Marine Area Command and Aspen Medical.
In light of the new evidence that "everyone has potentially been exposed", unions are demanding one hundred per cent of crew members be tested.
Dean Summers, National Co-ordinator for the International Transport Workers' Federation, has been in regular communication with many of the crew members who represent 50 different nations.
"Some of the staff that are cooking and feeding the may have had exposure and may have tested positive," Mr Summers told The Sunday Telegraph, describing the mood on board as getting more tense by the hour.
"So now their food is going to come from a third party, that can only mean from outside, so they will have prepared meals coming on board.
"Up until now, food was being cooked and delivered to cabins by other crew members, so the chance of spreading is so high.
"That's why we don't want them on that ship because the chance of continued exposure is obvious to blind Freddie. That's why we are saying 'for God's sake it's cruel, it's inhumane' that they haven't tested everybody.''
A crew member told The Sunday Telegraph they were "warned in an announcement made last night (Friday) that food will be from a third party, to prepare ourselves that it will not be something we will be used to and to persevere. Sorry what do you think we've being doing this whole time? All we have done is wait and persevere and nothing is changing apart from stricter rules in place".
In a video message to "exhausted and scared" crew members on Friday night, Group President of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia Jan Swartz said "we're now looking seriously at using our ships and our select ships in our fleet to help transport our teammates closer to their homes in various parts around the world".
She asked for "patience and grace while we try to work through this incredibly complex global operating environment", while signalling their future with the company was uncertain. "Ashore, we put in a hiring freeze a few weeks ago. We also eliminated most all contract jobs and we're looking at a variety of ways to further tighten our belt during these critical times," she said,
"So while I know this is really difficult information to receive, we hope that you know that as your leaders, we've tried to balance our care for our team without obligation as leaders to protect the long term interest of our business so that we can survive this very challenging period and return again to thrive because I have every confidence that in all this challenge we will find great opportunities as a team to shine and to once again sail full of happy guests."
Comment was being sought from Princess Cruises.
A Carnival Australia spokesman said the operation at Port Kembla was being led by government agencies ABF and NSW Health with Aspen Medical's support.
He refused to comment on the video from Ms Swartz.
Originally published as Mission to get trapped Ruby Princess crew home