Otago Daily Times

The Malt bar


Meanwhile, authoritie­s have been closely tracing another potential flareup point: The Malt bar at Greenhithe.

That was where one of two workmates spent two and ahalf hours on Friday night — a time he would have been ‘‘right at the beginning’’ of his infection, Dr Bloomfield said.

About 60 to 80 people were understood have been in the bar at the time — all of whom had been urged to get tested and selfisolat­e.

Pub owner Kevin McVicar told Radio New Zealand he was alerted to the situation when a ministry official came in on Wednesday night as his phones had not been working.

‘‘I was sceptical [at first] because it happened quite quickly and because the news was always reporting that we’ve had no cases for a while.’’

Like Dr Bloomfield, health experts have hailed the technician’s decision to get tested as soon as he became symptomati­c.

University of Auckland microbiolo­gist Siouxsie Wiles called him a ‘‘hero’’ who had followed the strict precaution­s that came with a job considered to be highrisk for Covid19.

‘‘Importantl­y, he immediatel­y got tested and went into isolation. This will have limited the time he was in contact with others in the community while infectious,’’ she said.

‘‘I’d like to thank the worker for getting tested so fast, as this will have limited the risk of the virus spreading any further.’’

University of Otago epidemiolo­gist Michael Baker said the case could have otherwise led to a much larger outbreak.

But it also raised fresh and troubling questions about New Zealand’s border system.

An obvious one was why the Sofrana Surville crew had only had to isolate for a few days after flying in — and none had been tested while here.

Dr Bloomfield said crews in transit were not routinely tested, and the ministry was now reviewing measures for ports and ship workers.

‘‘There’s clearly a gap there,’’ University of Auckland associate professor of public health Collin Tukuitonga told Radio New Zealand.

‘‘Even if you contain these people coming in from overseas . . . obviously there’s potential interactio­n with people either on the ship or on the wharf, that’s why I would’ve thought that testing would be mandatory.’’ port workers is they must wear personal protective equipment — mask and gloves — when they’re on the ship.

‘‘As much as possible they must prevent themselves from getting closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes with any of the crew.

‘‘Sometimes that’s not possible and they have to get closer than that, so we can’t eliminate the risk.

‘‘But now we have routine swabbing for all port workers.

‘‘Also, any port worker turning up to work is under clear instructio­ns that should they have any symptoms they’re to turn around and go home.’’

Prof Baker suggested a logical reason why the public had heard little about the risk from sea ports throughout the pandemic — the worker was the first case definitive­ly linked to one.

That was despite New Zealand’s ports receiving up to 100 visiting vessels each week, he said.

Incidental­ly, within a day of announcing that case, the ministry disclosed another: a crew member aboard IVS Merlion, which recently arrived at the Port of Tauranga.

That crew member returned a weak positive Covid19 test, with a high CT value which indicated an old infection, unconnecte­d to the port worker’s one.

‘‘Seaports have received less attention than airports, but are obviously area of vulnerabil­ity for New Zealand, as this case appears to show,’’ Prof Baker said.

While there was a good chance the current infection arrived with Sofrana Surville’s crew by air, Prof Baker said recent studies had shown how the virus could enter countries through ports.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand said the case highlighte­d a need to limit the number of internatio­nal ports here and implement domestic coastal shipping on a ‘‘hub and spoke’’ model.

domestic freight between all of the country’s ports had been raised by the union repeatedly.

‘‘Right now nearly all of our domestic sea freight is carried by internatio­nal ships running internatio­nal crews who are not covered by New Zealand law,’’ he said.

‘‘It means that every single one of our ports is an internatio­nal border point and it puts our members and the public at risk.’’

Mr Fleetwood argued there should be two ports on both islands that receive

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