Otago Daily Times
Port likely source of community Covid case
AUCKLAND: New Zealand’s latest case of Covid19 justifies concern about sea ports being possible entry points for the virus, a leading expert says.
The man, a worker from Auckland who went to Port Taranaki in New Plymouth last week, tested positive on Friday.
He sought a test the day he began showing symptoms and has been shifted to Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility, along with some close contacts.
Directorgeneral of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the man had driven by himself to New Plymouth on Tuesday, October 13, stayed in a hotel, and worked on a ship the next day.
He checked into another hotel on Wednesday but drove home that evening.
Dr Bloomfield said this offered a good explanation for where the likely source of infection was.
‘‘This is most likely a borderrelated case . . . so far there is no evidence of any onward community transmission.’’
The two hotels have been deepcleaned and officials decided the risk to the community remained too low to change alert level settings.
The man had worked on two ships docked in Auckland and Taranaki. One had also travelled to Lyttelton and Napier and although no crew showed symptoms, all needed to be cleared before they could step ashore.
Otago University epidemiologist Prof Michael Baker said there had been surprisingly little talk throughout the pandemic about ports.
‘‘There are several reasons for that.
This case happens to be the first definitively linked to a sea port, so it’s a really unique event for New Zealand.’’
Prof Baker expected, bar some disruption, the flow of shipping at the country’s 15 ports had changed little over the pandemic.
‘‘And this particular interface with the outside world has always had less attention than perhaps it deserves.
‘‘So I think this is really an indication that concern around sea ports is justified.’’
Port Taranaki was now working with health officials to find out how the case arose and what contact the man might have had with other staff.
‘‘At this stage, the Ministry of Health has determined only one staff member had brief contact with the confirmed case,’’ Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said.
Contrary to the belief that Covid19 cases aboard ships cycled out over time at sea, Prof Baker said there was modelling to show that transmission could be sustained for long periods — and even among small crews.
A logging ship associated with the recent case also visited South Port in Bluff for two days in early October.
However, Dr Bloomfield said it was ‘‘very unlikely’’ the man caught the virus while working on the vessel, because it would be ‘‘a very short incubation period’’.
The Maritime Union of New Zealand said the case highlighted a need to limit the number of international ports, and implement domestic coastal shipping on a ‘‘hub and spoke’’ model.
The Government’s recently updated border regime means higherrisk workers — or anyone who goes on board or works around an international vessel at a port — must be tested fortnightly.
Prof Baker said the worker had done all of the right things by getting tested quickly after he developed symptoms.
‘‘And this case has also shown that our contact tracing systems can kick into gear and respond effectively.
‘‘It’s a sign the system is going very well and that the outbreak is likely to be contained very quickly.’’
There were also two new imported cases of Covid19 in New Zealand yesterday — one from England (via Dubai) who arrived on October 5, and one from Dubai who arrived on October 13.
Both imported cases have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
There were three cases of Covid19 reported on Saturday, all in managed isolation. The cases arrived from the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. — The New Zealand Herald/ additional reporting by John Lewis
MELBOURNE: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been able to ease some of his state’s Covid19 restrictions but his row with the federal Liberal MPs has deepened over the travel bubble with New Zealand.
Andrews has reiterated he wants no part of the bubble that started on Friday but said 55 New Zealanders had turned up in his state after landing in NSW.
‘‘We have been able to find 23 . . . we are still working to find the balance,’’ he told reporters yesterday.
‘‘We have been given a list, 12 hours after they arrived. We are ringing them, one of them was in Byron Bay.’’
Victoria’s health department later confirmed all travellers had been contacted. ‘‘Three of the travellers did not cross the border into Victoria and remain in NSW, and one who was in Victoria returned to NSW today,’’ a statement said yesterday.
However, acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge insists Victorian chief medical officer Brett Sutton was at the meeting where authorisation was given for individuals who arrived in Sydney from New Zealand to then travel to Victoria.
‘‘So the Victorian government was present when it was discussed. They were made aware that this was going to occur. They raised no objections in the meetings,’’ Tudge told reporters.
Andrews said this was not the case.
‘‘Seriously, my advice to minister Tudge is, instead of stubbornly defending this, work with us and let’s make sure Victoria is not part of a bubble we never agreed to be in,’’ the premier said.
Andrews has been able to ease some of his state’s stiff Covid19 restrictions after reporting just two new cases yesterday andone on Saturday. From today Melburnians will be allowed to travel 25km from home.
Twentythree people who came from New Zealand to Australia have arrived in Perth.
Health officials were advised by police of the arrivals on Saturday and said they had been taken into hotel quarantine for 14 days.
All travelled through Sydney. — AAP