A cruise ship with an outbreak of COVID-19 among crew and passengers arrived in New South Wales today, as the state government announced a key change to its reinfection policy.
Queensland Health said 118 people on Australia’s Coral Princess had tested positive for the virus since it left Brisbane on Sunday.
Of those cases, 114 crew members and four passengers.
The ship, carrying more than 2,300 guests and crew, docked today at Eden on the south coast of New South Wales, the first cruise ship to return to the city since COVID-19 shut down the industry two years ago.
The ship is also scheduled to be in Sydney for a day on Wednesday.
Queensland health director John Gerrard said 24 people with COVID had landed in Brisbane and were all in isolation.
The rest are isolated on board according to the usual protocol.
Dr. Gerrard said that the COVID protocols on cruise ships were “very adequate”.
“There are a lot of details in those protocols and requirements for the cruise industry,” said Dr. Gerard.
“Public health officials and epidemiologists have put a lot of thought into establishing these protocols.”
“Hopefully everyone on the cruise ship is up to date on their vaccinations.”
Dr. Gerrard said it was “inevitable” that there would be outbreaks on cruise ships.
“It is extremely difficult to contain this virus on these ships where thousands of people are in the midst of a pandemic.”
A Carnival Australia spokesman said a recent check showed some crew members had tested positive and been isolated from passengers.
A spokesman said the number of cases identified by Queensland Health was “predominantly among crew members who were isolated on board in accordance with protocols that effectively supported the resumption of cruises to Australia from May”.
On July 9, a passenger received a letter while on a cruise ship alerting him to a COVID outbreak among the crew.
“We would like to inform you of the increase in the number of positive cases among crew members currently on board the Coral Princess,” the letter said.
“We are continuing to test all crew members and isolating anyone who tests positive along with their close contacts.”
The outbreak comes as NSW Health announced that its official reinfection period was being revised from 12 weeks to four weeks as the latest Omicron sub-variants circulate in the community.
This means that people who develop symptoms any time after 28 days of the last COVID-19 isolation period can be re-infected with the virus and should be tested.
No crew members will disembark and all disembarking passengers will be asked to first provide a negative RAT result.