The government is exploring taking legal action regarding the Ruby Princess cruise ship which has proven to be a hotbed of Covid-19 infection in Australia.
The vessel owned by Carnival Cruises visited five New Zealand ports in early March before returning to Australia. More than 600 people connected to the ship have since tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, and 10 have died.
New South Wales police confirmed on Sunday they had launched a criminal inquiry given the 2700 passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney despite some experiencing flu-like symptoms.
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In New Zealand, 16 cases in Hawke's Bay have been linked back to the ship which docked in Napier on 14 March.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was in the "very preliminary stages" of looking into whether New Zealand should also take action.
"I have asked [the Attorney-General David Parker] to seek legal advice from Crown Law as to whether or not the Ruby Princess while in New Zealand fulfilled all of its obligations... because, of course, we are now suffering the consequences of cases here in New Zealand as a result of that cruise ship."
Ardern said the Hawke's Bay Medical Officer of Health had sought assurances from the ship's captain before passengers came on shore that anyone who was sick would remain on board.
"We now have Covid-19 transmission that directly links back to that ship," Ardern said. "That raises significant questions."
The Ruby Princess made five stops throughout New Zealand, visiting Fiordland (11 March), Dunedin (12 March), Akaroa (13 March), Wellington (14 March) and Napier (15 March) before returning to Sydney.
As of midnight 14 March, all cruise ships were banned from coming to the country, however ships already in New Zealand waters were permitted to conclude their itinerary.
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