Apr 6, 2020 - Health

Australian police open criminal probe into Ruby Princess cruise ship

The Ruby Princess cruise ship docks at Port Kembla, Australia, on Monday. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The coronavirus-hit Ruby Princess berthed in New South Wales, Australia, on Monday — hours after police in the southeast Australian state launched a criminal investigation into the cruise ship.

Why it matters: Per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 600 people who were aboard the Ruby Princess and killed 11 others — accounting for 30% of all deaths from the virus in Australia.

  • The NSW Homicide Squad is investigating the circumstances surrounding a March 19 disembarkation of some 2,700 passengers in Sydney after a brief cruise to New Zealand, per a police statement.

Details: Up to 200 of the 1,040-member crew aboard the ship are showing symptoms for the virus, police said. Sick crew members were being treated on board or transported to hospital.

  • NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said in the statement his initial assessment "left questions about the transparency in conceptualizing the health conditions of passengers and crew in relation to COVID-19" and the only way he could determine whether any state or national biosecurity laws were broken was to launch a criminal probe.
  • "There appears to have been an exceptional amount of effort put in by [port officials] to determine the true nature of the conditions on board — and even delayed the vessels arrival until they were provided additional information," Fuller said.

The big picture: Australia has reported more than 35 deaths from the coronavirus and over 5,600 cases as of early Monday, according to Johns Hopkins.

  • The Australian government issued on March 16 a ban on cruise ships that prevents them from docking except for emergencies.
  • State health authorities had classed the Ruby Princess as low risk based on the information available at the time of the Sydney docking, per Reuters. The Australian Border Force then "issued a notice allowing the passengers to travel home freely" but requiring them to isolate for 14 days, the news agency notes.

What they're saying: Carnival Australia, which operates the Ruby Princess, said in a statement to news outlets the firm is "willingly participating in the investigation."

  • "Carnival Australia will vigorously respond to any allegations of which there must now be full disclosure and the basis for them," the statement added.

What's next: The ship is expected to remain at port for up to 10 days, "but the crew will not disembark unless in an emergency and approved by the NSW Police Commissioner," police said in a separate statement.

Go deeper: Carnival CEO defends coronavirus response

Go deeper

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.