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Stricken Ruby Princess ship departs Australia, with hundreds of crew aboard

Stricken Ruby Princess ship departs Australia, with hundreds of crew aboard
Boats gave the stricken Ruby Princess an honorary water salute as she departed from Port Kembla in NSW tonight, five weeks after the coronavirus-plagued vessel docked in Sydney.
The about 300 crew members still on board waved to Wollongong residents as the horn signalled the ship's departure.
A crew member on the the Ruby Princess displays a sign as the ship departs from Port Kembla in Wollongong, Australia. (AP Photo/Rick Rycrof)
The Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was the source of hundreds of Australia's Coronavirus cases, departs Port Kembla, NSW, with its remaining crew. (Janie Barrett)
The ship has since been linked to more than 700 COVID-19 cases in Australia – more than 10 per cent of all cases in the nation– and 21 deaths.
Eleven more crew members with coronavirus were taken off the ship in the final hours before she left, believed to be bound for Manila in the Philippines.
The 11 cases are in addition to the 21 crew who had already been confirmed to have coronavirus.
A total of 13 are in Sydney hospitals and the rest are in hotels for quarantine.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was the source of hundreds of Australia's Coronavirus cases, departs Port Kembla, NSW, with its remaining crew. (Janie Barrett)
Over the past three days, 550 crew disembarked to be flown to their home countries including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Republic of North Macedonia and Romania.
Earlier today, more than 300 Filipino crew free from the virus disembarked and were taken to Sydney Airport by coach, where they were set to fly home to Manila this evening.
Remaining crew are staying in passenger cabins, and gathered on balconies as the ship, adorned with a 'Thank You Illawarra' banner, left.
Ruby Princess leaves Port Kembla, NSW, with a special water salute. (Getty)
Crew on the the Ruby Princess wave with a cartoon sized hand and head as the ship departs from Port Kembla in Wollongong. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
"All agencies involved in the repatriation operation and the many agencies, departments, and companies who provided care and assistance to the crew in recent weeks wish them bon voyage," NSW Police said in a statement.
However, the NSW Labor party has raised questions over ongoing COVID-19 transmission on board and treatment of the crew who still remain.
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said she had been "overwhelmed" with emails and Facebook messages from crew members and their relatives, who include Indian, Indonesian and South African nations, "many scared, some unwell".
"They tell me they don't even know where the ship is going," Ms McKay tweeted.
She described one message from the daughter of a 62-year-old crew member who is a diabetic and hasn't yet received his COVID-19 test result.
"I don't understand why the welfare of each and every person aboard is not the priority of the NSW & Federal Government," a second tweet reads.
A person on the bridge of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, in a hazmat suit. (Janie Barrett)
Today marks exactly five weeks since the ill-fated vessel docked in Sydney and let 2700 passengers off to fly home to locations across Australia and overseas.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this morning insisted that she had not been notified that the inquiry into the Ruby Princess, overseen by Bret Walker SC, would hold its first public hearing yesterday.
It continued today, when the ship's Hotel Manager was questioned.
She said this was appropriate to ensure the inquiry's independence.
It is running parallel to a NSW Police probe expected to deliver its findings by September.
"Let the commissioner do his job, please – let him get to the bottom of this," she told reporters at this morning's press conference.
"The people of NSW deserve to have the answers. I want the answers."
The Hotel Manager, Charles Verwall, told the inquiry he was surprised guests who had been tested for COVID-19 were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19.
Mr Verwall said social distancing was implemented from the start of the cruise on March 8 as well as increased cleaning protocols and changes to the kitchen service.
Crew members are seen giving 'thumbs up' out the window as they finally start their long journey home. (AAP)
But no changes were made to entertainment areas, including nightclubs and shows.
The comments mirror those of the vessel's senior doctor, who yesterday told the inquiry she was "surprised" passengers weren't screened before being allowed to disembark.
Ilse Von Watzdorf said a number of COVID-19 swabs had been sent off for testing when the ship docked, but passengers were allowed to disembark before the results came back.
A group of approximately 300 crews were taken off the vessel this morning ahead of its departure. (AAP)
She also admitted that if it had been her decision, she "would have waited" for the swab results.
The ship's owner, Carnival, plans for it to begin sailing again in July, in Alaska.
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