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COVID-19 warning: Nine cruise ships floating offshore could “flood our system”

COVID-19 warning: Nine cruise ships floating offshore could “flood our system”

Police are urging foreign cruise ships floating off the NSW coast to sail home rather than risk flooding the state’s hospitals with coronavirus patients.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Tuesday said there were a total of nine ships either docked in NSW or waiting off the coast.

“There are thousands of people, potentially, in cruise ships off our coasts that aren’t members of our state and if we take them in, then that could well flood our system unnecessarily,” Fuller said.

“All the hard work we've done could be over. We will continue to allow them to have fuel and food ... but it is time to go to your port of origin.”

The call came after the operator of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which has been linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases, asked the government to allow the company to repatriate its foreign crew “on compassionate and humanitarian grounds”.

Carnival Australia said it was “in high-level federal and state discussions with the aim of enabling the repatriation”.

“It is not safe for the ship to sail away from Australia while there are crew members on board who are ill,” the company said in a statement.

“While illness on board has been reduced due to strong health management, the ship needs to remain within reach of Australia to access healthcare services if an urgent need arises.”

The ship has 1,100 crew from 51 countries, AAP reported.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship has been linked to 10 per cent of Australia’s coronavirus cases, The Guardian reported. As of Monday, at least 440 passengers across the country had tested positive for COVID-19 after disembarking from the ship, which docked twice in Sydney in March.

NSW has banned all cruise ship passengers from disembarking until new policies are in place. The state will continue to let people disembark cruise ships on humanitarian grounds under Fuller’s personal approval, such as the three crew members with severe symptoms who were taken to hospital on Sunday night.