There was another great Four Corners episode this week from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covered what had happened on the last cruises of the Diamond Princess in February in the North Pacific and the Ruby Princess in March in the Trans-Tasman Sea.
What was pretty concerning wasn’t just the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney on the 19th of March.
What was more concerning that the cruise had ever been allowed to leave Sydney given how COVID-19 had spread through her sister ship in Asia in February. Or the lack of precautions that were made during the cruise when an outbreak was clearly occurring.
For many of us the initial news reports coming out of that part of the world were perceived as something happening over there like previous diseases SARS and MERS.
As the situation escalated at some point the actions of Carnival Corporation become troubling. And people died.
It’s quite a heartbreaking tale.
In Blackwater a town of less than 5,000 in Central Queensland the late miner aged 30 returned a positive postmortem test for COVID-19. In the days ahead with the set-up of fever clinics and contract tracing in the town a second test came back negative.
Nathan Turner had underlying medical conditions that had meant he had been unable to work in recent months due to illness. At age 30 he came the youngest fatality in Australia of COVID-19. The second test was good news for the town in terms of COVID fears but his death remained a tragic loss of one so young.
There were 484 active cases in Australia on the 25th of May.
On the 17th of March there had been 410 cases which was on the eve of the Ruby Princess docking and ceasing international air travel.
Allowing that changes were in place that weren’t then and awareness from the general populace was different there was a growing push to re-open the economy.
However Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of NSW advised the same day “Given that there is that, we should be waiting for 14 days … to get to zero and then add those two incubation periods before we start hopping on aeroplanes or coaches or cars to states and territories that have been exemplary in getting their numbers to zero“.
Two days later Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Channel Nine Today show, “The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said. That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time. Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.”
The Federal and State governments have worked hard through their differences at all times during the crisis at unprecedented levels. NSW and Victoria pushed hard to shut down schools and now there were disagreements about the borders.
In the early days of the crisis as the state borders shut it was considered that it may be until September before they were opened again. Now the momentum was shifting.
“There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible. I want to stress, the national medical advice that came from the expert panel that has driven all the other decisions never recommended closing borders.” said the PM.
Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk noted “These are really hard decisions everyone, I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs. I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come.”
Other states were holding firm too. The Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein advised “I won’t comment on the way the Queensland premier deals with her borders nor how the NSW premier deals with hers. It’s quite obvious the federal government has a view but my job is to protect the best interests of Tasmanians.”
The Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said “The interstate border will stay. It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever. Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.”
This was on the 28th of May, history was about to push the trajectory of these plans in another direction.