UPDATED: Ruby Princess link as COVID-19 cases rise and private hospitals enlisted

Genevieve Jacobs 1 April 2020 18

UPDATED 4:00 pm, 31 March: ACT Health has announced three new ACT cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, and has confirmed that the ACT’s first COVID-19 related death was connected with the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

“While for privacy reasons ACT Health limits the amount of information about individuals, at the request of the family we can confirm that the individual announced yesterday as the ACT’s first death had contracted COVID-19 on the Ruby Princess cruise ship,” ACT Health said in a statement.

The new cases consist of two males and one female, aged between 27 and 57. All three new cases are linked to overseas travel, including on cruise ships.

However, after further testing, one of the ACT patients under investigation has now been determined not to have COVID-19. That person has, therefore, been removed from the ACT’s confirmed case total, which now stands at 80.

Speaking at this afternoon’s press conference, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the initial test had been indeterminate. The person had been confirmed as a precaution so that contact tracing and infection control could take place, but further investigation had established that the patient was not infected with the virus.

One other case is still under investigation by ACT Health, which says that there remains no confirmed evidence of community transmission in the ACT.

Ruby Princess

The Ruby Princess has been linked with hundreds of Australian COVID 19 diagnoses. Photo: file.

Dr Coleman said while the number of new cases has been quite low in recent days, “this doesn’t mean we are in the clear. A temporary drop in cases is not unexpected as we see less people returning from overseas, however, we are expecting some more cases”.

“We are in a very good position in Canberra at the moment, but it’s critically important that we continue with [social distancing] measures. There is time for us to practise and get it right,” she said.

“The more we do, the more capable we are of getting the best outcomes. But I do want to thank you all for your efforts in slowing the spread of this disease.”

Dr Coleman said that overseas visitors had now all returned home and that new diagnoses were, for now, limited to close contacts of those people, “but it is not possible to keep this completely suppressed and that it will go away. At some stage, we will see new cases come on board not related to overseas travel”.

“This is one reason why I remind the community that we will end up as other jurisdictions have at other points in time. Please be aware this will happen,” she said.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said that the ACT would follow National Cabinet’s “very strong guidance that people should stay at home” but for now, would not put into practice the enforcement regime in NSW where there is evidence of community transmission.

While the ACT will line up with NSW by dramatically increasing penalties for people who do not follow social distancing and quarantine regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19, Ms Stephen-Smith said the first phase in the ACT will be about education and warnings before on-the-spot fines are imposed.

There is, however, provision for larger fines if there are “egregious breaches” of social distancing protocols.

ACT private hospitals will join the crisis response announced by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt today.

“We are working with the six largest hospitals in the ACT to develop a whole of territory undertaking of capacity”, Ms Stephen-Smith said.

As part of the response, private hospitals may undertake the most urgent elective surgery cases while public hospitals ready themselves for peak COVID-19 infection. Day clinics have also been contacted regarding their equipment and possible staffing resources.

Ms Stephen-Smith said that local hospital staff were being trained on how to manage PPE resources, but said that any cleaning and re-use was within normal processes and did not indicate shortages.

“Some PPE can be cleaned and re-used, some cannot be,” she said. “Staff are being given instructions about this. At this point in time, we have sufficient PPE across systems but like all jurisdictions, we are keeping a very close eye on this.”

Additional human resources are also being identified among ANU Masters students in epidemiology and in government departments where medically trained staff can be released in a staged approach.

There are currently six (6) COVID-19 patients in Canberra hospitals. The rest are isolating at home with ACT Health support. Three patients have recovered completely from the virus and have been released from self-isolation.

The ACT Government has established a new dedicated COVID-19 website for all information about the health and economic response to the pandemic in the ACT. For further information, visit www.covid19.act.gov.au.

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18 Responses to UPDATED: Ruby Princess link as COVID-19 cases rise and private hospitals enlisted
Karen Feng Karen Feng 7:45 pm 03 Apr 20

do we know where that person live and where that person had been?

Judy Gleeson Judy Gleeson 1:32 pm 01 Apr 20

Some came by train to Canberra. I know a guy who sat beside one on the train and chatted for 4 hours.

He self isolated a few days later when he found out.

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 10:27 am 01 Apr 20

And so the list goes on about this great blunder thanks NSW for taking care of the rest of Australians by letting this ship disembark sick people to make it worse with catching the COVID 19

    Peter Zimmermann Peter Zimmermann 11:36 am 01 Apr 20

    Jeannou Zoides this case makes many Australians not to trust our so called Leaders. I am totally dumb founded at what they scratch together. Decisions on the run.

Ken Beck Ken Beck 8:31 am 01 Apr 20

David Doblinger I couldn’t find the tweet, but here’s some of it.

David Terry David Terry 9:53 pm 31 Mar 20

How old was she?

Fran Ballard Fran Ballard 5:02 pm 31 Mar 20

It really concerns me that ACT Health is not telling us how the Canberra Ruby Princess passengers got from Sydney to Canberra. Bus, plane, train or private car? It is important for us to know this.

    Christine Evans Christine Evans 6:18 pm 31 Mar 20

    Fran Ballard We have been informed of any public transport anyone who tested positive has travelled on to and from Canberra.

    Fran Ballard Fran Ballard 6:31 pm 31 Mar 20

    Christine Evans No we haven’t I’m sorry to say. Only one Murray’s bus has been identified and that was from the airport. There has been no information about Ruby Princess passengers coming home...

    Christine Evans Christine Evans 6:46 pm 31 Mar 20

    Fran Ballard I would then assume that the rest travelled via private vehicles. Details of which we all don’t need to know.

    Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 8:16 pm 31 Mar 20

    At least you know about the cases. My local health district covers 300km and somewhere in those 300km is 38 cases. Could be in my town and in a town 300km away.

    Fran Ballard Fran Ballard 8:37 pm 31 Mar 20

    Natalie Ferris I agree. This is what I’m saying - there has been no acknowledgement of the issue of disembarkation in Sydney. Totally outrageous...

    Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 11:17 pm 31 Mar 20

    Fran Ballard what bright spark allowed these passengers to disembark in the first place? Disgraceful

    Melissa Lee Brown Melissa Lee Brown 6:51 am 01 Apr 20

    Fran Ballard they would only inform the people who were on those buses planes btw to cancel out some fear

    David Berkelmans David Berkelmans 7:52 am 01 Apr 20

    Natalie Ferris if there in your town practice social distancing and you should be fine.

    Lin Burridge Lin Burridge 10:18 am 01 Apr 20

    Fran Ballard Yes that is important to know.

    Peter Zimmermann Peter Zimmermann 11:32 am 01 Apr 20

    Phil Hopkins some bright spark on a Head of a Departement Salary. 👎🏼☹️

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