Australian State Tightens Cruise Ship Rules as Virus Cases Surge

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Australia’s most-populous state is tightening protocols for handling illnesses on cruise ships after the number of coronavirus cases linked to a vessel that disembarked in Sydney on Thursday surged to 26.

New South Wales health department said that going forward it will hold all cruise ships in port until any patients with respiratory issues are tested for COVID-19.

Some 2,647 passengers were allowed to leave the Ruby Princess ship in Sydney, despite a group reporting flu-like symptoms during the cruise. Three passengers and a crew member subsequently tested positive for the virus and authorities urgently contacted passengers to urge them to self-isolate for 14 days.

There have now been 26 confirmed cases of the virus from the Ruby Princess, which is operated by Princess Cruises, the majority diagnosed in New South Wales and 8 passengers diagnosed interstate, the health department said in a statement.

Many countries have become increasingly reluctant to grant entry to cruise ships after the infection of more than 700 people on a vessel berthed off Japan, also operated by Princess Cruises, showed how quickly the virus could spread. Australia has announced a ban on foreign cruise ships, but is still allowing domestic vessels and some ships that were at sea when the restrictions were announced to dock and disembark passengers.

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