Coronavirus Covid 19: Ship at center of infection feared to return to New Zealand early next week
A foreign-flagged fishing vessel with Covid-infected sailors on board may be anchored off Rangitoto Island and up to 20 crew members transported to quarantine in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
A fishing vessel with two Covid-positive sailors on board is expected to return to New Zealand early next week.
Details – including the port at which Viking Bay will dock – were still being finalized and would be announced once confirmed, the Department of Health said in a statement this afternoon.
The current plan was that the unwell crew on board would be removed from the ship using standard infection prevention and control protocols, which involves the use of appropriate PPE.
They would then be transferred to a quarantine facility.
A health management plan would be put in place for those remaining on board the Viking Bay.
This approach both managed the risk to public health and helped provide appropriate medical assistance to the crew, the ministry said.
Other protocols would be put in place to protect the boat and crew in port and to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading.
Customs and public health officials continued to monitor a second vessel, reported yesterday, which at this point will remain at sea.
The immediate health needs of the crews of the two ships could currently be managed on board.
No new cases of Covid today
There is no new case of Covid-19 in New Zealand today and a historic case.
This person arrived on July 1 from Russia, via the United Arab Emirates. They tested positive on the third day of testing and are currently in an isolation center run by Wellington.
Earlier, officials said a whole-of-government response had been put in place, led by Customs, to deal with the Viking Bay situation.
The ministry said health authorities were working closely with border agencies, port authorities and the shipping company to meet the health needs of crew members and to determine next steps for the ship.
A vessel tracking satellite shows that the Spanish-flagged fishing vessel Viking Bay is still in international waters off the coast of Taranaki.
Previously, officials at Port Taranaki had refused to allow the ship to dock in New Plymouth, saying it posed an unacceptable risk.
Port bosses were also concerned about the impact on staff and customer resources, as the on-duty pilot for the ship’s return would likely be required to self-isolate for a period that would impact routine freighters.
Auckland Ports said last night they would allow the ship with two Covid-19 positive sailors on board to access its quarantine anchorage near Rangitoto Island.
Auckland Ports spokesman Matt Ball said if Viking Bay needed to bring people ashore it would have to be done via another small transfer vessel arranged by the ship itself.
The ministry confirmed yesterday that genome sequencing showed the first of the two sailors to have the Delta variant of Covid-19. Sequencing also showed that this infection was not linked to any other case in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the first of the green round-trip flights managed from Queensland and New South Wales to New Zealand begins at midnight.
Any boarding on flights requires a negative pre-departure test carried out within 72 hours of departure.