Unlike the United States, which no longer makes the number of people infected with COVID-19 on cruise ships publicly available (the CDC stopped such public disclose in July of this year), the state of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia requires cruise ships which arrive in its waters with guests and crew members infected with the virus to disclose some relevant health data to the public.

The Australian NSW government’s travel website list, under the title “Update on cruise vessel COVID-19 status,” the “tiers” and “risk levels” of cruise ships. The NSW’s “Advice for the Cruise Industry” provides COVID-19 risk mitigation measures specific to NSW for all cruise vessels intending to enter or leave a NSW port.

Cruise ships are obligated to fill out and send a standard reporting template for acute respiratory infections (as well as  gastrointestinal infections) via email to the NSW Health Department on the identification of a person(s) who has tested positive to COVID-19 on board the vessel.

The NSW system contemplates a three tier risk level for each ship. Australia NSW lists “% of Passengers & Crew Onboard who have Tested Positive to COVID-19 in Last 7 Days:” Tier 1 is “0.0% to <3%.” Tier 2 is “3% to <10%.” Tier 3 is “≥10%.” Tier 3 results in a “operational compromise” of a cruise ship as follows:

  • Major impact to staffing and/or resource shortages.
  • Unable to maintain critical services and/or imminent cessation of critical services. (Example: Reduction in critical staffing or resources that cannot be compensated (such as impact to healthcare workers, engineering staff, or shortages of food or PPE).

The Coral Princess is designated at Tier 3 (risk level 3 of 3).

Coral Princess is currently sailing with 2,000 cruise passengers and 900 crew members. NSW’s data from the cruise ship indicates that there are at least 290 guests and crew members infected with COVID-19 in the last seven (7) days. The website does not indicate the exact number or percentage of people infected or the exact percentage of the guests or crew members who are infected over 10%.

In any event, according to NWS’s guidelines, when over 10% of the cruise ships’ passengers and crew are infected, this will likely result in a major impact to staffing on the ship which will be unable to provide critical services.

This data is useful given the tendency of cruise lines to refuse to publicly disclose the number of infected people on its ships. As we have said before, representatives of Carnival cruise brands, in particular, have resorted to the “it’s just a small number” mumbo-jumbo while evading providing an accurate number of passengers infected with COVID-19 on Carnival Corporation owned cruise ships. Carnival has repeatedly claimed that literally every single COVID-19 shipboard outbreak, whether it included 5, 15, 50, 150 or more people, was always just a so-called “small number.

Stay tuned and we will continue to monitor the NSW health website and update you regarding the COVID risk levels of other cruise ships entering NSW ports.

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Image credit: ABC News: Bridget Herrmann