Covid 19 coronavirus: Details to be revealed on ship at centre of infection scare off Taranaki coast

The ship 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.

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 during a routine test and are currently in a Wellington managed isolation facility.

Details are set to be released about the fate of a fishing vessel that is still off the Taranaki coastline with at least one sailor on board with the highly contagious Delta variant.

An All of Government response has been set up, led by Customs, to handle the unfolding situation.

The ministry said health authorities were working closely with the 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.

Yesterday officials said it was not yet clear which port the ship would return to.

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 Health Ministry said on their return to New Zealand, 15 of the 20 crew – including the two Covid-19 positive mariners – were expected to go into a managed isolation and quarantine facility.

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.

Customs said any development in the situation would be issued in today’s statement.

Second vessel with sick crew

Health officials also revealed it had been advised that a second foreign-owned fishing vessel operating from New Zealand had contacted authorities and declared that a number of crew have reported flu-like symptoms and the vessel has requested to dock in New Zealand.

The ship would undergo the usual pratique (quarantine clearance) declarations and the situation assessed by the local public health unit.

Yesterday there was just one new Covid-19 case in MIQ in a traveller who arrived on Tuesday from Russia. They tested positive on day zero routine testing and were now in quarantine in Auckland.

There are currently 41 active 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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