March 23, 2020, Perth, Australia
On Saturday I was pretty upset with the Australian officials, changing their minds on us, first we can get off the ship and wait in hotels for flights, then we can only get off if we go directly to the airport. Finally, a reversal and we could get off and stay in a hotel. It put a lot of our cruise mates in a quandary because they could not get reservations out of Australia until a few days after the ship left. I particularly did not like the threats, a $50,000 fine held over our heads if we stayed in a hotel. We all believed we were a pretty healthy ship. We are not criminals and yet we were being treated like potential criminals. It left me with a negative feeling about a nation I generally felt pretty positive about.
Well, perhaps the officials did have reason to believe we were potential biohazards. Today reading “The Australian” I can see a different point of view. On Thursday (we arrived in Fremantle on Saturday) the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney to end a cruise after being declared a “low risk” ship. It turns out that 4 people who got off had the virus and after further testing an additional 26 people had the virus. Now officials are trying to track down everyone who was on the ship, 2,700 of them and track their contacts.
The same ship docked in Sydney on March 8 (when we were there, I took some pictures) with 156 sick passengers aboard (It is not clear to me from the article if they had the virus or other seasonal illnesses, but some had fevers.) Everyone got off on the 8th and a new batch came on. Some of those were the ones who showed up sick back in Sydney on Thursday. Of course, everyone is blaming everyone else. It appears the ship did report ill passengers to a bio-security portal known as MARS and that information was not passed on to local port officials.
So, I can see why local officials in Fremantle may not have trusted federal officials, or even the reporting on MARS. But now we are off, and hopefully heading home from a nation of friendly people who, understandably, are keeping their distance from us and each other.
(Although on Friday Bondi Beach in Sydney was crowded and the police had to move in and tell the beach goers that this was serious.)