Otago Daily Times

In­fected worker’s quick think­ing lauded

- Oceania News · New Zealand · Auckland Region · Papua New Guinea · Guinea · Brisbane · Tauranga · Philippines · New Plymouth · Plymouth · Napier · Australia · Sunshine Coast · Solomon Islands · Noumea · Chris Hipkins · Hawke's Bay

HE was the 1530th case of Covid­19 re­ported in New Zealand. But to ex­perts, he is the hero who may have saved the coun­try from a new com­mu­nity out­break by act­ing swiftly.

We still do not know much about this man — a 27­year­old marine elec­tron­ics tech­ni­cian un­der­stood to work at Al­bany­based Wright Tech­nolo­gies.

We know more about what he did — and how a reg­u­lar day on a docked ship led to a ma­jor pub­lic health re­sponse.

That ves­sel was a Liberi­an­flagged cargo ship named

Sofrana Surville, which ar­rived at the Ports of Auck­land just be­fore noon on Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 12.

It had sailed from Pa­pua

New Guinea to the Solomon Is­lands, to Bris­bane, to Tau­ranga and then to Auck­land.

On Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 13, the en­gi­neer, garbed in a mask and gloves, stepped aboard Sofrana Surville and got to work.

He was not the only per­son on deck that day.

Eight crew mem­bers from the Philip­pines also filed on to the ship, hav­ing flown into the coun­try a few days ear­lier and spent a brief pe­riod of iso­la­tion in Auck­land’s Novo­tel ho­tel.

Sofrana Surville then set sail for Noumea, be­fore head­ing to Bris­bane.

The en­gi­neer, mean­while, headed to New Ply­mouth, where he checked into the Devon Ho­tel, just north of the city cen­tre.

When he checked out early the next morn­ing, on Wednes­day, Oc­to­ber 14, he was likely al­ready in­fec­tious.

He headed straight to his next job at Port Taranaki, to work on the Van­u­atu­flagged ship Ken Rei.

Prob­a­bly fig­ur­ing he’d stay an­other night in Taranaki, he checked into the Quest Ho­tel, in the heart of New Ply­mouth.

How­ever, in a de­ci­sion that likely saved of­fi­cials a much larger con­tact trac­ing op­er­a­tion, he opted against stay­ing.

In­stead, he drove back to Auck­land, where he spent the fol­low­ing day at home.

On Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 16, he went to work but, feel­ing sick, phoned Health­line and then sought a Covid­19 test.

By that point, when the coun­try’s fo­cus was on the last cam­paign day of the gen­eral elec­tion, Ken Rei and its 21 crew were on their way to their next des­ti­na­tion, the Port of Napier.

About 6.11pm on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 17, less than an hour be­fore polls closed, Health Min­is­ter Chris Hip­kins re­ceived a call from direc­torgen­eral of health Ash­ley Bloom­field.

The en­gi­neer’s test had come back pos­i­tive.

New Zealand had a new com­mu­nity case.

In the throes of the elec­tion, Mr Hip­kins did not think it was ap­pro­pri­ate to let the coun­try know straight away — do­ing so could have been counter to strict elec­tion day rules.

The man, mean­while, had moved to the Jet Park Ho­tel quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity in Auck­land.

In Taranaki, his po­ten­tial con­tacts with oth­ers had been sur­pris­ingly few. about in the city.

In Auck­land, mean­while, two work­mates –—one of whom had also worked on Sofrana Surville on Oc­to­ber 12 — picked up the virus.

One was only in con­tact with the tech­ni­cian for a mere three min­utes; he was tested on Sun­day and re­turned a neg­a­tive re­sult, but, by Tues­day, be­gan feel­ing sick.

The first New Zealan­ders heard of this fresh chain of in­fec­tions was the morn­ing after the elec­tion, when the news cy­cle was still dom­i­nated by Labour’s land­slide vic­tory.

Be­fore Dr Bloom­field called an un­usual press con­fer­ence at 1pm that Sun­day, The New Zealand Her­ald had al­ready ob­tained a let­ter from the Auck­land Re­gional Pub­lic Health Ser­vice re­veal­ing a per­son had been di­ag­nosed with a ‘‘no­ti­fi­able, in­fec­tious dis­ease’’.

The di­rec­tor­gen­eral stepped to the podium, thanked jour­nal­ists for com­ing in on a Sun­day, then calmly an­nounced ‘‘there is a new com­mu­nity case of Covid­19 to re­port in New Zealand to­day’’.

Be­fore de­tail­ing the case, he stressed that it had shown the coun­try’s con­tact trac­ing sys­tems were work­ing well, that there was a clear line of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into its source, and — more im­por­tantly — that an­chored in Hawke’s Bay for a 14­day iso­la­tion pe­riod.

Sofrana Surville was sim­i­larly kept from en­ter­ing Bris­bane, and is cur­rently an­chored off Aus­tralia’s Sun­shine Coast.

Of­fi­cials’ as­sump­tions that it is where the in­fec­tion be­gan have been strength­ened after news two crew mem­bers have tested pos­i­tive.

 ?? PHO­TOS: THE NEW ZEALAND HER­ALD ?? Test­ing . . . Staff work Green­hithe yes­ter­day.
at
the
Wain­oni Park test­ing sta­tion in
PHO­TOS: THE NEW ZEALAND HER­ALD Test­ing . . . Staff work Green­hithe yes­ter­day. at the Wain­oni Park test­ing sta­tion in
 ??  ?? Pre­cau­tions . . . The Malt bar in the North Shore sub­urb of Green­hithe has been closed for two weeks after a pa­tron tested pos­i­tive for Covid­19.
Pre­cau­tions . . . The Malt bar in the North Shore sub­urb of Green­hithe has been closed for two weeks after a pa­tron tested pos­i­tive for Covid­19.
 ??  ?? Di­rec­tor­gen­eral of health Ash­ley Bloom­field.
Di­rec­tor­gen­eral of health Ash­ley Bloom­field.
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