2 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Cruise ship crew have flu not Covid-19, ministry says

12:21 pm on 2 March 2020

Seven people on board a cruise ship that docked in Tauranga this morning have the flu or gastroenteritis, not the Covid-19 coronavirus, the Ministry of Health says.

Voyager of the Seas in Sydney 2014

The Voyager of the Seas cruise ship in Sydney (file photo). Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0

Passengers and crew were prohibited from leaving the Voyager of the Seas at Vanuatu and New Caledonia due to coronavirus concerns and it has diverted to Tauranga.

Health officials boarded the ship this morning to assess the sick people, before allowing other passengers to disembark.

The Ministry of Health said standard processes had been followed. "These people are being managed appropriately," its statement said. "Our current assessment is that there is no risk from Covid-19."

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Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristen Dunne said staff were at the port speaking to people as they left the ship.

"Everyone was in really good spirits. We met some wonderful people and everyone was just trying to make the most of a situation that had changed on them and they were very happy to be somewhere warm and welcoming today."

The ship is expected to leave this evening for the Bay of Islands.

Health Minister David Clark said earlier the ship's captain had followed the requirement to make ports aware of any health concerns.

"Members of the public can be reassured we're confident it's not Covid-19," he told Morning Report.

Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell said he found out last night the ship was due to arrive.

"I'm very conscious for Tauranga residents that we've got more 65-plus-year-olds here than in any other city in New Zealand and we know that coronavirus affects the elderly, the infirm and the sick.

"But this is not coronavirus... I think we need to remain calm and I think we need to listen to our health professionals," he told RNZ's First Up.

"The Bay of Plenty DHB have extremely good systems and processes in place.

He said the Voyager of the Seas was going around Australia and the South Pacific, and the members who were sick joined the vessel in September or October last year.

"As I understand it, they [the seven crew] have been isolated and any passengers showing symptoms of the illness on board will be isolated themselves.

"What I'm asking the health officials to do is ensure that we are safe and I would ask that they don't take any risk, Powell told First Up.

Tourism Bay of Plenty said it had complete confidence in the steps taken to mitigate risk

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