Covid 19 coronavirus: Ship at centre of infection scare to return to NZ early next week

A fishing vessel with two Covid-positive mariners aboard is expected to return to New Zealand early next week.

Details – including which port the Viking Bay will dock at – were still being finalised and would be announced when confirmed, the Ministry of Health said in a statement this afternoon.

The current plan was that crew onboard who were unwell would be taken off 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 who remained on board the Viking Bay.

This approach both managed the risk to public health as well as allowing the provision of appropriate medical assistance to the crew, the ministry said.

Other protocols would be put in place to protect the boat and crew while in port and to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus.

Customs and public health officials were continuing to monitor a second ship, reported yesterday, which will at this stage remain at sea.

The immediate health needs of crew on both ships were currently able to be managed on-board.

No new Covid cases today

There are no new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand today and one historical case.

This person arrived on July 1 from Russia, via the United Arab Emirates. They tested positive on day three testing and are currently in a Wellington managed isolation facility.

All-of-Government response

Earlier, officials said an All-of-Government response had been set up, led by Customs, to handle the Viking Bay situation.

The ministry said health authorities were working closely with border agencies, port authorities and the shipping company to address the health needs of crew members and to determine the next steps for the vessel.

A satellite ship tracker shows the Spanish-flagged fishing vessel Viking Bay is still in international waters off the Taranaki coast.

Earlier, Port Taranaki officials refused to allow the ship to berth at New Plymouth, saying it posed an unacceptable risk.

Port bosses were also concerned at the impact on staff resourcing and customers as the pilot on duty for the vessel’s return would likely be required to self-isolate for a period which would impact routine cargo vessels.

Last night the Ports of Auckland said it would allow the vessel with two positive Covid-19 mariners onboard access to its quarantine anchorage near Rangitoto Island.

Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball said if Viking Bay needed to bring people ashore, it would need to be done via another small transfer vessel organised by the ship itself.

The ministry yesterday confirmed genome sequencing showed the first of two mariners has the Delta variant of Covid-19. The sequencing also showed this infection was not linked to any other cases in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the first of managed return green flights from Queensland and New South Wales to New Zealand starts at midnight.

All boarding the flights need a negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours before departure.

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