Ruby Princess ‘decimated our family’
The emotional final moments of a Ruby Princess victim has been revealed as the stepson of the victim claims the cruise has "decimated our family".
It comes as other passengers on-board the ill-fated cruise ship express their dismay at being allowed to board the ship despite signs it was already infected with coronavirus.
To date, more than 600 passengers on-board have tested positive for COVID-19. The number accounts for 10 per cent of Australia's confirmed cases.
News Corp had earlier revealed around 22 per cent of passengers - more than one in five - have been diagnosed with virus.
According to Seven's Sunday night program, 7News Investigates: The Ruby Princess , the cruise ship company allowed more than 2700 passengers to board the ship in Sydney after it knew there were sick passengers that left the prior cruise.
Des and Bev Williams were among those passengers who boarded the ship on March 8 for a family holiday. It was the couple's 11th cruise together.
"Every time they went to dinner, I think they basically went to the same place for dinner, every night, they got the same waiter every night," Des' stepson, Craig Blackburn, told the program.
"One day they turned up, waiter has gone. 'Where is the waiter?', 'He is sick'.
"After that they wouldn't say where he was or what was wrong with him. I suspect he was one of them."
The week after the couple returned home, Des was showing symptoms of a cold and was "not feeling 100 per cent".
"His temperature was up and on the Saturday I think he had a high temperature, starting to have difficulty breathing as well.
"They went to the local testing station in Toowoomba. It was only once he then got into hospital and tested him he found out he had it the next day.
"He was straightaway put in the COVID ward and mum at that stage, still being in isolation at home, she was told, 'You will have to stay at home, you can't come in to see him'.
"I basically had to go and take up his phone and his iPad for him so she could at least have some communication with him. That is a big risk for us going to the hospital and into that area.
"Then on the Tuesday, Tuesday just gone, his oxygen level dropped again and they put him back on oxygen. Then just out of the blue that night the doctor said, 'Des is dying, Des is dying, you need to come and see him'.
"So, yes, she can't get in a taxi, I can't pick her up, can't do anything. She had to drive herself, 'Go and see your husband for the last time'.
"She would have just said goodbye. He would have just said goodbye. He would have just thought, 'I will see you next time'. She would have known."
Des Williams, 85, died at Toowoomba Hospital on Thursday morning.
"He was apparently talking to the nurses every half-hour when they came and checked him and the next time the nurse went back he was dead.
"And then she had to go up and see the body. Saw dad."
"I have a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old. They used to love seeing dad. Now their grandfather is taken away. My stepfather is taken away as well. We got on really well and my mother loved him. The whole bloody thing has just decimated the family. As we talk now … just disaster."
It was also revealed Bev has now tested positive, despite being initially denied a test, according to the The Australian.
"It is a whole nightmare. Whole nightmare. She is showing no symptoms but we just have to wait and see if the bloody death sentence is coming. So we are all just stressed like anything.
"Right now she is preparing herself for the end essentially. And we can't go over. "We can go over and see her from a distance but we can't hug her, we can't do anything, we can't go inside and help her. She is just lonely. Hopefully not dying."
'PASSENGERS WEREN'T TOLD A THING'
The Ruby Princess is the sister ship of the Diamond Princess, which is moored in Japan after becoming one of the first victims of the virus. More than 700 cases of coronavirus - including multiple Australians - have been confirmed on that ship.
Following the disaster on board the Diamond Princess, the Ruby Princess sailed to New Zealand after leaving Sydney on March 8.
Ten passengers from the Ruby Princess have died since the ship docked back in Sydney on March 19, allowing 2700 passengers to disembark despite some on board having COVID-19 symptoms.
It's considered one of the biggest "disasters" in Australia's fight against the pandemic.
The ship's haste to leave Sydney on March 8 "would now set off a viral time bomb", according to Seven's program, 7News Investigates: The Ruby Princess.
"On March 8, the new arrivals were about to move into the cabins of the passengers who had disembarked just hours before," reporter Denham Hitchcock said.
"What the newcomers weren't told is just how many of the recently departed passengers had reported sick - 158 in total, 13 with high temperatures, a symptom of COVID-19."
Elisa McCafferty who was travelling with five others, including her elderly parents, told the program the passengers had been given no warning of sickness on the ship.
"There was nobody sick. Everything was OK. Everything is good.
"I think it was 6, 6:30, maybe 7:00, they made an announcement saying, 'NSW has given permission for this cruise to board and depart'.
"So for all our minds, that meant it was safe to board. And everybody cheered."
PORT AUTHORITY 'MISLED'
An email obtained by the program purportedly reveals information regarding sick passengers on the ship was kept from the Port Authority and it had been "misled".
"Last Sunday, 8 March, the Ruby Princess arrived into Port advising our vessel traffic services they had no ill passengers or crew on board," the email read.
The ship was forced back to Sydney on March 16 after New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on cruise ships entering the country.
The next day, Australian Prime Minister announced a similar ban on cruise ship arrivals and closed all ports.
According to the program, "by the time that ship left New Zealand there were already 13 passengers on board with COVID-19 symptoms and those 13 passengers had been advised to have nasal swabs ready to go for when they got back to Australia".
Ms McCafferty said. "Those swabs could have been taken and choppered off so results could have been had, if that was the case, before we even got back to Sydney. We could have known whether or not the ship should have been in full quarantine."
Passengers were told of their return to Sydney: "The Australian government wants us straight back home. The Australian government wants us straight back home."
"You would think there would be rumours but no, no rumours. A lot of alcohol consumed but no rumours. Tequila kills everything," Ms McCafferty said.
"Ruby Princess fully reported its health status using the official federal and state maritime reporting systems," a spokesperson said.
"We take these obligations very seriously and strictly adhere to them. Ruby Princess was considered low-risk for COVID-19 when she returned to Sydney last week.
"Even so, our on-board team had taken no chances. They required guests who reported flu-like symptoms to self-isolate in their cabins. The ship then reported these cases to federal and state authorities as we're always obliged to do."
'WE WERE RUSHED OFF LIKE SHEEP'
When the ship docked in Sydney on March 19, Ms McCafferty said it was unusual, "how quickly they got us off". All 2700 passengers disembarked.
"We were rushed off like sheep. Touching each other. I saw Border Force agents around with masks and gloves but they didn't interact. They basically just stood there and kept telling people to move through.
"Nothing was being scanned. I couldn't see anyone's temperatures being taken. We weren't asked to fill in another health declaration.
"Our passports weren't even checked off the ship. It was get us off. Get us off, away and out.
"Everything is OK, no problems. There is nothing going on, everything is all right, see you later."
Ms McCafferty, her mother and father got a hire car to Sydney Airport, went to the Qantas lounge and had a drink at the bar before boarding a packed flight to London where they caught a cab home. All three of them were infected and contagious.
The NSW Government is under fire over its handling of the Ruby Princess cruise liner. Test results released by the government on March 20 showed four passengers had contracted the virus while on-board, but by that time 2647 people had left the ship.
NSW Health has stated that it undertook a full assessment of the Ruby Princess and allowed the passengers to disembark, despite a "damning document" revealed by the program, from the Federal Department of Agriculture revealing the Ruby Princess declared it had 128 people fall ill on the cruise, 24 of those had a temperature of well over 38 degrees. Six of them had headaches, muscle aches, vomiting.
"A panel of public health doctors do the risk assessment on the ship and that is the process," NSW Health said in a press conference.
"Obviously if there are learnings and insights that we will gather, those will be reflected. The actions of NSW Health on that day and the advice of the public health panel was based on the assessment of that information presented to them.
"They concluded it was a low risk, took the action and tested the results.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller confirmed there would be a criminal investigation into who is to blame for allowing the ship to dock and disembark infected passengers, after what he said was "a significant amount of deaths".
Mr Fuller said there was "clear evidence" coronavirus was brought off the ship. He said it is "too early to tell" whether a crime has been committed, and the only way to determine that was through a criminal investigation.
Mr Fuller said there were "many unanswered questions" despite early investigations over the past 48 hours, and he could "only turn so many rocks" in that time.
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Originally published as Ruby Princess 'decimated our family'