Ruby Princess doctor took swab and 'cleared' passenger who later tested positive for Covid-19, inquiry told

‘You don’t have coronavirus, you have the common cold,’ Paul Reid says he was told

The Ruby Princess docks in Sydney on 19 March
The Ruby Princess docks in Sydney on 19 March. Passenger Paul Reid says he was told he didn’t have coronavirus – despite the ship having no testing capacity. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

A passenger on the Ruby Princess has said a doctor on the ship took a swab from him and told him “you don’t have coronavirus”, despite the ship having no coronavirus testing capacity on board.

Paul Reid, an asthmatic man who later tested positive for Covid-19, told the New South Wales special inquiry into the cruise ship that he had gone to the ship’s medical centre during the trip with a sore throat and a fever.

He told the inquiry that a male doctor had taken a swab from his nose and throat, put the swab “in a mixture”, then “came back five minutes later and told me, ‘You don’t have coronavirus, you have the common cold.’”

Reid said he had been given the impression this meant he had been tested and “cleared of coronavirus”, and he told other passengers, family and friends that he had tested negative.

The ship’s records show that Reid was not tested for coronavirus but rather for influenza A and B. He was negative for both. Earlier the inquiry heard that the ship’s doctors had coronavirus swab kits but did not have the lab equipment to process the swabs and get results until they reached land.

On Monday the inquiry heard from another passenger, Josephine Roope, who said doctors had told her that her travelling companion, Lesley Bacon, “only [had] the flu”, even though she had tested negative for influenza.

Bacon was taken off the ship in an ambulance on 19 March, was later diagnosed with Covid-19 and died.

On Tuesday, another passenger, Ann Kavanagh, said a waitress on the ship had sneezed in her face days before she became sick.

She said she “didn’t associate anything with it” but had begun feeling sick while on her flight 凯发官网网址多少home to Perth, and was shivering on the plane.

Kavanagh later tested positive for coronavirus and was put in an induced coma for eight days.

Reid told the inquiry he hadn’t been asked to self-isolate, and he had continued to go to the ship’s buffet, though at a later time to avoid crowds.

When he arrived in Sydney on 19 March, he took an Uber 凯发官网网址多少home. “I told the Uber driver I had been tested and was sweet, so she had nothing to worry about,” he said. He later developed further symptoms and tested positive.

Kavanagh, who said she had taken 14 previous cruises, also said the disembarkation had been done so quickly that it was unprecedented.

“We hadn’t known anything like it,” she said. “We got off the ship so quickly. There was no queuing, no passport control, nothing, we just got in a taxi, got to the airport ... very quick.”

Reid and another passenger, Kristy McMahon, also told the inquiry that they tried to cancel their trips and obtain refunds before it began on 8 March, after seeing outbreaks of Covid-19 on other cruise ships on the news.

McMahon said she had been told that refunds would only be available for cruises beginning on 9 March, and that notice had to be given three days before the cruise began.

She had then received a second email that said cruises starting from 6 March could be refunded but there was not enough time to give three days’ notice.

“We thought it would be a bit weird that they reviewed the date but it still said three days prior,” she said.

She told the commissioner, Bret Walker SC, that if there had not been that three-day notice period she would have cancelled the cruise.

“I would have seen that as a sign that perhaps it was a good idea to cancel the cruise, if they were offering that,” she said.