A female passenger in her 70s who was transported directly to the hospital from the Ruby Princess cruise ship, passed away in hospital this morning, the New South Wales Ministry of Health (NSW Health) informed.
This patient was one of the initial three passengers who were confirmed to be COVID-19 positive following testing of retained specimens from on-board the Ruby Princess, operated by Princess Cruises.
The Ruby Princess cruise to New Zealand left Sydney on March 8, and returned to Sydney and docked on March 19.
The three passengers disembarked the ship, while the crew member remained in isolation on board the vessel.
As informed earlier by the ministry, 2,647 passengers disembarked the ship and all were advised to self-isolate at home or in their accommodation for a period of 14 days.
The latest fatality brings the death toll in NSW to 7 people who tested positive to COVID-19.
NSW Health added this morning that there have been 107 cases diagnosed in NSW from the Ruby Princess and 26 cases interstate.
“It should be noted, no cases of COVID-19 had been identified by doctors on board before docking. Five people who had displayed influenza-like illness were tested in Wellington, New Zealand on 14 March, and all were negative for COVID-19,” the ministry pointed out.
Furthermore, there are 13 cases in NSW linked to the Ovation of the Seas which docked in Sydney on March 18, and seven cases diagnosed in NSW who were on-board the cruise Voyager of the Seas which disembarked on the same day.
As s of midnight March 22, NSW Health is implementing a new security protocol under which it will hold all cruise ships in port until any patients highlighted as having respiratory issues are tested for COVID-19.
Cruise ships across the board are having a difficult time finding a place to dock and disembark passengers as ports around the globe deny access to cruise ships amid fears of spreading of the virus.
Coral Princess, also operated by Princess Cruises, is sailing a South America voyage and continues to encounter challenges disembarking guests due to port closures and changing regulations.
“In the continued effort to repatriate guests as quickly as possible, the ship will sail to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, arriving March 24. Although Brazil has been closed to cruise ship traffic, we are working through diplomatic channels to obtain permission and have received positive responses,” the company said.
“Guests with confirmed homeward flight arrangements will be permitted to disembark and go directly to the airport. Regretfully, we do not anticipate that all guests will be able to disembark in Rio due to limited flight availability. From Rio, Coral Princess will sail to Fort Lauderdale as previously announced with a planned arrival on Sunday, April 5.”