Federal Labor is urging the Morrison government to help the crew of the COVID-19 infected Ruby Princess, as the owner of the cruise liner company is being sued by the family of a US citizen who died from the disease.
Labor says the government must not force the vessel to leave Australian waters with crew members on board who have tested positive to the coronavirus.
“Only crew members who return negative test results and volunteer to remain on the vessel for the ship’s journey to its next port should remain on the vessel,” opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said in a joint statement with transport spokeswoman Catherine King and her assistant spokeswoman Carol Brown.
They say the government must work with the cruise company and the International Transport Workers Federation who represent the crew to repatriate the remaining crew members as quickly and safely as possible.
The costs associated with the repatriation should be covered by the cruise company.
“Each day that passes without the Morrison government helping this stranded crew to get home safely, risks more people on board contracting COVID-19, and placing unnecessary additional stress on the New South Wales health system,” they said.
More than one hundred crew members on the Ruby Princess have contracted COVID-19 with a number already being airlifted to Sydney hospitals.
They said the risk to seafarers is “gravely serious” with a 40-year-old crew member of the cruise ship Artania in Western Australia having already passed away from the virus.
That ship is due leave Australian waters soon.
Twenty-one Australian passengers of the Ruby Princess have died from COVID-19.
The impact of the liner’s fateful last trip is also being felt abroad, with a 64-year-old US man, Chung Chen, who has died after falling ill on his way home to California.
Mr Chen’s wife and daughter, who also contracted the virus, are suing Princess Cruises for more than $1 million for negligence.
“While they were on the ship, they had no idea anything was going on,” the Chen family’s US lawyer Debi Chalik told ABC television.
“They didn’t realise there was an outbreak on the ship until after they got home.”
The way passengers were freely allowed to disembark from the Ruby Princess, which allowed COVID-19 to spread in Australia in already under a police investigation.
Originally published as Labor urges help for Ruby Princess crew