NSW govt made 'inexcusable' mistakes amid deadly Ruby Princess COVID-19 outbreak, independent report finds

Ruby Princess docking at Sydney Harbour.
Ruby Princess docking at Sydney Harbour. Photo credit: Getty Images

An independent report into the handling of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess in March has found New South Wales health officials made "inexcusable" mistakes.

Those mistakes included allowing the unchecked disembarkation of around 2700 passengers - 120 of whom were feeling unwell - from the cruise ship and onto the streets of Sydney.

"The report also confirmed that none of the crew onboard the Ruby Princess misled public authorities when being permitted to dock in Sydney on March 19," the report states.

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has issued a heartfelt public apology over the report's findings.

"The lessons weren't learnt soon enough and again I apologise unreservedly on behalf of all of those individuals and agencies who made those mistakes," Berejiklian said at a media conference on Monday.

The inquiry found 914 infections could be traced back to the Ruby Princess in an outbreak that resulted in 28 deaths.

Berejiklian apologised in particular to the 62 people who contracted the virus from a passenger.

"I can't imagine what it would be like having a loved one or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result," she said.

Princess Cruises has welcomed the completion of the independent Special Commission of Inquiry into Ruby Princess, expressing "profound sorrow" at the impact COVID-19 has had on the ship's guests, crew and their families. 

"Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected, particularly those who lost loved ones," the company's president Jan Swartz said in a statement.

"The Commission's report confirms that none of our people - the Captain, the ship's doctor, or members of our shore side port agency team - misled public authorities involved in Ruby Princess being permitted to disembark guests on March 19.

"This finding is of great importance to us because it goes to the integrity of our people. In our more than 20 years in Australia, we have always sought to cooperate honestly and professionally with officials in accordance with the regulatory environment."

Princess Cruises said it would be working with officials in relation to operational recommendations also made in the report, but in light of ongoing legal proceedings, is not able to comment any further at this time.

In April, a criminal investigation was launched into the Ruby Princess outbreak and the deaths associated with it.