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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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

3 mins ago - World

Abbas announces first Palestinian elections in 15 years

Abbas is 85 and in the 15th year of a 4-year term. Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree on Friday announcing the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: This is the first time in 15 years that such a decree has been published. The last presidential elections took place in 2005, with Abbas winning, and the last parliamentary elections took place in 2006, with Hamas winning.

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

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