Sydney

NSW Premier Berejiklian apologises ‘unreservedly’ over Ruby Princess mistakes that led to coronavirus outbreak

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has apologised “unreservedly” for the “unimaginable loss” suffered by people because of NSW Health’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

A report handed to the NSW Government on Friday identified “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” oversights by NSW Health.

The Premier said she was sorry for those who continue to suffer loss or trauma as a result of the outbreak on board the cruise ship.

Ms Berejiklian claimed the incident was isolated.

“I say not only have lessons been learnt, but clearly those circumstances should and will never happen again in New South Wales,” she said.

The Ruby Princess docked at Circular Quay in March, and passengers were allowed to disembark despite several passengers exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like having a loved one or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result,” she said.

“I want to apologise unreservedly to anybody who is continuing to suffer, or has suffered unimaginable loss because of mistakes that were made within our health agencies.”

The Premier was responding for the first time to the report from the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess which identified “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes by NSW Health.

But the report by Bret Walker SC made few recommendations saying health authorities had recognised mistakes made, and would “do things differently if they had their time again”.

The Premier said all of the recommendations would be implemented and that the NSW Government would work with federal agencies involved to strengthen protocols.

Ms Berejiklian said she wanted to stress that Mr Walker’s report found there weren’t systemic issues and had there been, she would have taken action.

“He has full confidence in those agencies continuing to work on the pandemic and I think we can say, since that time we have learnt a lot,” she said.

The inquiry was established in April after thousands of passengers were allowed to leave the cruise liner at the conclusion of two separate voyages in March.

In the weeks that followed, 663 passengers tested positive to COVID-19 in Australia and overseas and 28 people died.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said staff from her office had given evidence “frankly” to the inquiry and had “identified in hindsight they would have made a different decision”.

She staff at the time were under “immense stress” and were dealing with a large number of locally acquired COVID-19 cases at the time.

“It was a very, very busy time and … I don’t provide that as an excuse for the actions, but I think that it is important that we understand the context at the time.”

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said that a criminal investigation into what happened was still underway.

But he hasn’t given any timeframe as to if and when charges will be laid.

“There are tens of thousands of documents that have been sourced. There are surveys and interviews. I think there’s 1,200 people so far that have given interviews.”abcnews