7 Jul 2021

Need for immunisation highlighted in latest Covid-19 scare

5:48 pm on 7 July 2021

Taranaki Chamber of Commerce chairman Daniel Fleming says the latest Covid-19 scare shows border controls will never be foolproof and that getting the population vaccinated should be the priority.

Doctor preparing a drug or vaccine in the clinic.

File photo Photo: AFP / Tek Image/Science Photo Library

Two Covid-19-infected fishermen are isolating off the coast of Taranaki after spending five-hours travelling by minibus to New Plymouth from Auckland.

Nine foreign sailors flew into Auckland on Monday, before boarding the Viking Bay in New Plymouth.

All provided negative pre-departure tests - but two tested positive after their arrival - those results coming back after the vessel was at sea.

Three close contacts of the men are isolating - all have been fully vaccinated.

Fleming said the country needs to vaccinated to a good level to eliminate any future risk.

"At the moment the economy is going well business is going well particularly for Taranaki," he said.

"People are travelling here. Things are going really good, but it just shows we are really vulnerable and we're vulnerable until we get to that vaccinated stage."

More than 1100 mariners have been transferred from airports to their vessels since last year when protocols allowing them to do so without first isolating were established.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he had confidence in the strict protocols.

"We've got some pretty robust measures in place to make sure that that bubble that they are in during that transit period is very tight, so that if anything does happen as we've seen in the past two days we know exactly who they've been in contact with and we've put as much of a layer of protection around that as possible.

"All of the workers concerned here were fully vaccinated, which again helps, and then we can do contact tracing if we need to."

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom was also happy with the level of risk presented by mariners transiting through the city.

Neil Holdom.

Neil Holdom. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"If we want to conduct ourselves as a trading economy and we've got shipping and we've got aeroplanes there are places where we are going to be exposed to risk and we've got to have safety barriers to eliminate them.

"We are slowly opening our borders, so there's an element of risk and we have to get used to owning that.

"The way we manage the risk is people following the processes and protocols and it would appear people are doing that."

But he would also like to see immunisation rates climb.

"Everybody would like to see the vaccinations rolled out faster, but we understand we are sitting in a queue and we are a small country at the bottom of the Pacific.

"Obviously, as soon as we get to that tipping point where we are 75 to 80 percent vaccinated I think then we can start to relax and then it will be what does the plan look like from there."

So far just 5825 people in Taranaki have been fully vaccinated for Covid-19.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield advised the Viking Bay was returning to Port Taranaki where all nine crew members would be taken ashore and placed in an isolation facility.

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