Help make laws to prevent viruses like COVID-19 escaping from cruise ships now

Help make laws to prevent viruses like COVID-19 escaping from cruise ships now

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Phil Harrip started this petition to Prime Minister Morrison, State Premiers and Chief Ministers (PM Scott Morrison) and

To the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers in parliaments assembled:

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted shortcomings in the cruise industry being extremely significant in transmission of biological assaults into Australia.

Just one ship, the Ruby Princess, was responsible for more than 10% of the cases of COVID-19 presenting in Australia, and for a much higher percentage of total deaths.  Some reports indicate the cruise industry was complicit in up to 30% of initial cases of COVID-19 in Australia.

Cruise ships have been accurately described as “Floating Petrie Dishes” of disease and we have now seen the human and financial costs which these ships have contributed to during this current COVID-19 pandemic.

Our nation cannot afford a repeat, so, given that cruise companies are, with a few exceptions, not self-addressing the issues, choosing to put profit over safety, then the regulations around cruise ship visits must change to enforce the changes.

Some cruise companies are very responsible, have already started to make significant changes, and we applaud them for their foresight.

However, it appears it will require legislation from Australian governments to require many other companies to turn their focus from maximising profit to include biological safety.  In the absence of concerted action from these companies, it is up to us as a nation to look after our own biological safety, and the time is now.

Furthermore, this is an appropriate opportunity to look at other issues around the economy of the cruise industry too.

There have been significant warnings in the past, with outbreaks of Norovirus and various Influenza strains landing in Australia from cruise ships.

In the solid knowledge that we have had many potential pandemics recently, SARS, MERS, various Influenzas, Ebola and others, now is the time to draw the line so clearly required for the sake of the health of our population and economy.

While the Ruby Princess is at present our worst example, it is not the only ship;   there was the warnings with the Diamond Princess in Tokyo, the Grand Princess in San Francisco, the Zaandam in the Pacific, and some 34 other ships, many of which have tested the authorities in Australian Ports.

This time, we were lucky.  So far, we have dodged the bullet of runaway infection due to the concerted action by millions of people.  In these times it is easy to become complacent as the immediate threat reduces, but we have had many warnings and the next event may not be as “manageable” as COVID-19, it may be biologically much worse!  We must act now!

Therefore, we present this petition to the Federal Government of Australia, State and Territory Governments and demand common legislation to be passed to withhold permission for cruise ships to travel in Australian waters with the intent to land, to dock or tender to any port or point in Australia, Territories or Protectorates, unless they are certified as having complied with the design and biological security criteria set out in the regulations pursuant to the proposed legislation. Ships transiting without stopping or operating under international treaties or conventions should be excluded.  A draft set of criteria is available on request from the petitioner.

Should any ship not be compliant with our regulations, then we submit that ship should be simply denied permission to enter Australian waters.

The design of that draft document is to ensure that we control which cruise ships are suitable to be trusted in this country and under what conditions.

Most cruise companies right now are simply trying to restart their business as it was.  This is evident by their current sales efforts and timing of cruises for sale, and we believe they cannot be allowed to operate in Australia on this basis.

Responsible cruise companies have a duty to meet the concerns and expectations of the shipboard passengers.  They also have a duty of care to all passengers and to the public in ports of call around the world, and in the case of this petition, to Australia and Australians.

The current Federal Cabinet is an appropriate forum to raise this matter and future COAG meetings should be able to cement an outcome, pending the drafting of legislation.  In any case, we would suggest that an implementation date prior to 31st October 2020 would be appropriate so that there is not rampant traditional and dangerous cruise activity in the Australian summer.

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