Coronavirus

Australian Border Force fires back at new reports of major Ruby Princess mistakes

Crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship leaving the vessel, which has been docked at Port Kembla for more than two weeks. Source: NSW POLICE

At least 22 deaths and hundreds of cases have been linked to the Ruby Princess fiasco, in which infected passengers were allowed to enter Sydney.

The Australian Border Force is trying to hose down reports that a senior officer allowed sick Ruby Princess passengers to disembark the ship after misinterpreting flu test results.

The officer mistakenly thought test results showed some passengers were negative for coronavirus, when in fact they had only tested negative for the flu, the ABC reported.

At least 22 deaths and hundreds of cases have been linked to the Ruby Princess fiasco, in which infected passengers were allowed to enter Sydney.

The border force on Thursday evening released a lengthy statement saying it "strongly refutes" the new claims.

"The Australian Border Force strongly refutes claims in Andrew Probyn's ABC 7:30 reporting today that a senior ABF officer allowed 2700 people to disembark the Ruby Princess cruise ship after mistakenly believing passengers displaying 'flu-like symptoms' had tested negative to COVID-19," the statement read.

"No ABF officer had authority to make biosecurity decisions in relation to the Ruby Princess,” it continued.

The statement did not deny that an officer had misinterpreted the results. Instead, it said any mistake would not have contributed to passengers being allowed off the ship.

“Any misinterpretation by ABF officers of test results did not make a difference as to whether passengers were cleared to disembark the Ruby Princess. Human health is not the responsibility of the ABF.”

Australian Border Force chief Michael Outram has previously said the disembarkation of ill passengers was squarely the responsibility of NSW health authorities and the federal agriculture department.

He said his organisation was solely responsible for the restriction of contraband and ensuring orderly migration - two of the three "green lights" required for passenger disembarkation.

The third green light - regarding biosecurity - came from NSW Health, who had decided not to board the vessel for additional checks.

A NSW inquiry into the Ruby Princess will hand down it’s report on 14 August.

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