Princess Cruises ship at center of coronavirus outbreak raided by Australian police

Officers seized evidence and questioned crew members

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Police wearing protective gear boarded a cruise ship to seize evidence and question crew members of the vessel linked to hundreds of coronavirus infections and 15 deaths across Australia.

About 2,700 passengers disembarked from the ship on March 19 in Sydney and it has since become the largest source of coronavirus infections in Australia. More than 600 cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths are linked to the ship, the Ruby Princess.

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Investigators in protective gear prepare to board the Ruby Princess cruise ship at Wollongong, Australia, Wednesday. (Nathan Patterson/NSW Police via AP)

New South Wales police, which boarded the ship Wednesday night at Port Kembla south of Sydney, said it's expected to remain in port for 10 days with its 1,040 crew undergoing medical assessments. About 200 crew have shown symptoms of COVID-19, while 18 have tested positive for the virus that causes it. The workers remaining on the ship are from 50 countries.

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New South Wales police Commissioner Mick Fuller said Thursday that officers seized a black box “very similar to that of international planes” and other evidence. He said the captain had been extremely helpful.

"I can confirm there's still over 1,000 crew members on the ship," he said, adding that three-quarters of them want to remain on the ship. "They feel safe on the ship and I think that's a good outcome."

The ship's owner, Princess Cruises, is a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation. Carnival Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Investigators in protective gear examine material from the Ruby Princess cruise ship at Wollongong, Australia on April 8, 2020 (Nathan Patterson/NSW Police via AP)

On Thursday, Australia recorded its lowest increase in coronavirus cases in more than three weeks.

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Health Minister Greg Hunt said there were 96 new cases, the first time there have been fewer than 100 a day since March 17. The peak was on March 28, when 457 cases were recorded. There have been a total of just over 6,000 and 51 deaths in Australia from the virus.

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Seeking to limit the impact on the economy, lawmakers passed a wage subsidy program late Wednesday worth 130 billion Australian dollars ($81 billion).