A photo has emerged that reveals how passengers on board the doomed Ruby Princess cruise ship never stood a chance to prevent the deadly coronavirus outbreak that tore through the ship and sparked cases in Australia and New Zealand.
The photo shows passengers crammed shoulder-to-shoulder around the ship's main staircase, applauding staff - and totally unaware that the virus had already made its way on to the ship.
The lack of social distancing came despite the Ruby Princess starting its ill-fated voyage three days after the World Health Organisation declared a coronavirus pandemic and recommended social distancing to slow the spread of the disease.
The Daily Mail reported that passengers claim they were able to move freely after completing a health questionnaire before they boarded, despite the fact that it was known by that point that virus carriers could be asymptomatic.
A passenger who travelled on the Ruby Princess with family said passengers knew that the virus was spreading around the globe but believed they were safe on the ship.
Stacie Hunt, 36, told the Australian Financial Review: "People were selfish and thought they were safe being away on a boat.
"I had people sneeze all over me. I had people squeeze themselves into lifts that were already too full."
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A waiter or someone who handles food on the Ruby Princess was the likely source of a deadly outbreak of coronavirus in Australia, NSW Police revealed earlier this week.
Detectives have begun interviewing thousands of witnesses about what they knew about potential Covid-19 cases on board the cruise ship before it docked in Sydney more than three weeks ago.
Since disembarking, 18 passengers from the ship have died and hundreds of confirmed cases have been linked to the vessel.
NSW Police announced a criminal investigation into the operator of the Ruby Princess, Carnival Australia, earlier this month, while Shine Lawyers in Australia have mounted a class action against the company saying passengers were not advised of the risk and were not monitored for symptoms.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said early indications suggested an infected crew member was most likely responsible for the outbreak.
"That would seem to be the most obvious point of transmission - someone that is handling food on behalf of multiple hundreds of people," he said.
The commissioner is expected to give a timeframe for the investigation tomorrow morning after meeting with Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
New Zealand is also exploring taking legal action regarding the Ruby Princess which visited five ports in early March. Sixteen cases in Hawke's Bay have been linked back to the ship which docked in Napier on 14 March.
-Additional reporting, RNZ