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COVID cruise ship docks in Sydney

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A cruise ship with more than 100 COVID-19 positive people onboard has docked in Sydney.

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After departing Eden on the NSW South Coast, the Coral Princess with more than 2300 on board, berthed at Circular Quay just before dawn on Wednesday, where it will remain for a day before returning to its home port of Brisbane.

Passengers will have to record a negative result on a rapid antigen test before disembarking, but the crew will have to remain on board.

The outbreak aboard the ship mostly involves infected crew members with 114 in isolation on Tuesday.

Four passengers were also isolating after positive results, and 24 earlier disembarked in Brisbane, Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard said.

NSW Health said passengers who tested positive likely took the virus on board with them rather than becoming infected at sea.

The ship docked in Eden on Tuesday, where about 800 passengers disembarked after returning negative tests.

Eden-Monaro MP and Regional Development Minister Kristy McBain said locals were happy to see the ship dock after bushfires and the pandemic impacted the region.

“When you’ve got towns that rely on tourism it’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years,” McBain told Sydney radio 2GB on Tuesday.

“Hopefully this will be the first of many cruise ships to dock this season … There’s been significant investment into the Port of Eden so that cruise ships could dock in town.”

A Princess Cruises spokesman said the crew who had tested positive in a recent full-screening were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.

At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, another Princess cruise liner – the Ruby Princess – was briefly linked to one in eight NSW coronavirus cases.

The latest cruise ship outbreak comes as concern grows about the growing spread of the B.4 and B.5 Omicron sub-variants that could reinfect people who have already had the virus.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recently advised shortening the period people are considered immune to the virus to four weeks, requiring people experiencing symptoms more than 28 days after they left isolation to get tested again.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has criticised the end of free rapid antigen tests for concession card holders and called for the government to extend it beyond July.

“Case numbers and hospitalisations are still rising every single day,” society president Fei Sim said.

“Governments should be encouraging more testing, not less,” she said.

Australia recorded 41,336 new coronavirus cases and 58 related deaths on Tuesday.

 – AAP

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