A passenger who walked off the Ruby Princess cruise ship without any health checks or warnings by authorities is now being treated in a hospital’s intensive care unit after testing positive to coronavirus.
Greg Butler, 56, and his fiancee Robin Russ were among 2,700 passengers allowed to walk off the boat in Sydney on Thursday without any medical questions asked.
The unknowing couple then travelled for six hours on public transport to their hometown of Tamworth, in northeast NSW, and spent the next four days at home before Mr Butler felt unwell with ‘pins and needles’, a headache and cough.
He took himself to the doctor on Monday and was diagnosed with coronavirus.
Ruby Princess cruise ship passenger Greg Butler (left) is currently in ICU in Tamworth Hospital with coronavirus. He and partner Robin Russ (right) caught a six-hour train to Tamworth after disembarking the ship at Sydney Harbour last Thursday
While on the cruise, Mr Butler posted a photo on Facebook saying ‘Drinking Corona in the Crooners bar on a Princess Cruise… watch this space’
The security guard is now in Tamworth Base Hospital’s ICU ward being treated for a severe case of the killer virus.
‘We got home and he had a cough on Friday morning, and then he collapsed on me yesterday,’ Ms Russ said.
‘He’s in ICU but he says it’s just like having a mild flu, they expect he will be released in coming days.’
Ms Russ said both she and Mr Butler could not believe how easily they were allowed off the ship.
She said if there was even the slightest belief someone on the ship had coronavirus, they should have been locked onboard.
‘We were told we could get off and go home, take public transport or whatever we wanted, it was just ridiculous,’ Ms Russ said.
‘We got into Sydney Harbour at 2am and then took the light rail to central and a train from there.
A relative of Mr Butler’s claimed he and his partner had spent the past few days in isolation since stepping off the ship
‘By the next morning the government has got onto us to tell us to self-isolate, so they clearly knew someone had it.
‘We just can’t understand how they let us do that, and now we’re getting the blame for it.’
Ms Russ has tested negative to coronavirus, as has her elderly mother who lived with her and Mr Butler.
Because they were given no warning about the potential of having caught the virus on the ship, Mr Butler and Ms Russ said they caught the light rail from Circular Quay to Central Station, then a train to the Central Coast, before driving to Tamworth.
‘We could have come into contact with anyone,’ Ms Russ said.
Mr Butler is one of 133 passengers on board the ship to test positive to the virus, including a 77-year-old woman who died on Monday.
There have been 107 cases diagnosed in NSW from the Ruby Princess and 26 cases interstate
Because they were given no warning about the potential of having caught the virus on the ship, Mr Butler and Ms Russ caught the light rail from Circular Quay to Central Station, then a train to the Central Coast, before driving to Tamworth
In a post to Facebook soon after he got home, Mr Butler said it was astounding there was no quarantine checks before they left the boat.
He said all passengers were given was a handout instructing them to self-isolate once they got home.
‘We weren’t even looked at by anyone when we left the ship and were allowed to travel on public transport,’ he wrote.
Mr Butler’s diagnosis comes just days after he criticised the handling of the situation by both Ruby Princess staff and the NSW, and federal governments.
He told The Daily Telegraph he was shocked by the ease with which they were able to disembark and leave the area.
‘They didn’t check bags, didn’t check passports… we could have brought in a bag of heroin and walked right through it,’ Mr Butler said.
Mr Butler (left) had previously been critical of the ability of Ruby Princess passengers to so easily leave the ship last Thursday. He is currently in a stable condition in Tamworth Hospital
Mr Butler received this letter as he disembarked the ship, but claimed not enough was done to stop sick people being released into the community
New South Wales currently has the highest number of confirmed cases in Australia, with 818 people infected. Nationally, there are 1,894 reported cases
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 1,972
New South Wales: 818
Western Australia: 140
South Australia: 134
Australian Capital Territory: 39
Northern Territory: 5
TOTAL CASES: 1,972
At the time the ship docked last Thursday, NSW Health said ‘no cases’ of COVID-19 had been identified by doctors on board.
‘Five people who had displayed influenza-like illness were tested in Wellington, New Zealand on 14 March, and all were negative for COVID-19.’
But in a statement released on Tuesday, NSW Health confirmed a 70-year-old woman who had been on board the Ruby Princess had died of the virus.
‘This patient was one of the initial three passengers who were confirmed to be COVID-19 positive following testing of retained specimens from on-board the Ruby Princess,’ a NSW Health spokesperson said.
She is the eighth person to die from coronavirus in Australia, and the seventh person in NSW.