Otago Daily Times

Port likely source of com­mu­nity Covid case

- JAMIE MOR­TON Oceania News · Coronavirus (COVID-19) · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Greater Auckland · New Zealand · Auckland Region · Plymouth · Plymouth Argyle F.C. · University of Otago · Otago · England · Dubai · United Kingdom · United Arab Emirates · John Lewis · Melbourne · Daniel Andrews · New South Wales · Sydney · Victoria · Australia · New Plymouth · Lyttelton · New Zealand Ministry of Health · Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination · John Lewis · Byron Bay · Alan Tudge

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

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