Covid cruise questions linger a year on

Covid cruise questions linger a year on

A little over a year ago 40 Far South Coast doctors banded together and pleaded to not let cruise ships dock in Eden as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.

They had the tremendous foresight to know that our coastal tourist retreat could not handle the consequences of a potential pandemic outbreak the cruise ships could - and later did - cause.

Voyager of the Seas was one of four cruise ships eyeing off the Far South Coast as safe harbour to disembark passengers before medical experts intervened.

And just days after the March 13 letter, 2700 people were allowed off the Ruby Princess in Sydney without health checks that has since been linked to 900 infections and 28 deaths.

Thanks to the efforts of those doctors, all cruise ships were turned away with Voyager of the Seas later linked to cases and at least one death.

And one year on, questions still remain about the Ruby Princess including why the cruise ship appeared in Port Kembla under the cover of darkness.

Seventeen days after the ship docked, it would sail out of Port Kembla heads at sunset, under a water cannon salute, with hundreds of residents turning out to wave goodbye. On the back crew had affixed a sign which read 'Thank you Illawarra'.

Despite the unease with the ship's arrival - at a time when much remained unknown about the virus - the Illawarra community would ultimately respond with compassion. They would reach out to the ship's crew, delivering more than 1000 care packages filled with food and personal supplies.

Fast forward to April 6, 2021 and union leaders were back at Port Kembla on the first anniversary of the ship's arrival. They were there to remember the struggle of the crew - 300 of whom would test positive to COVID - and to highlight the plight of seafarers still stranded in ports across the world.

And while there's been an inquiry into the March disembarkation of the Ruby Princess in Sydney, the union leaders are also calling for an inquiry into the decision to send it to Port Kembla. Who made the call, and why?

Closer to home many are still bamboozled as to why those passengers were allowed off the Ruby Princess without so much as a temperature check.

But perhaps an important question to reflect on is what might have become of the Bega Valley had those doctors not stepped forward to stop the ships?