11 Aug 2021

Rio de la Plata: Ship carrying crew members with Covid-19 departs Tauranga

1:21 pm on 11 August 2021

A ship carrying Covid-19 infected crew members, Rio de la Plata, has departed Tauranga and is heading to Malaysia.

lights of Port of Tauranga ships and harbor at dawn with golden glow of sun on horizon.

The Rio de la Plata container ship has departed Tauranga. Photo: 123RF

The company that operates the ship, Maersk, said the ship had received clearance from New Zealand health and port authorities.

Eleven of the 21 crew aboard the ship have Covid-19.

Crew members had each been evaluated by the captain and a company doctor and were all in good health, with none being symptomatic.

The company said members with positive test results were all past the acute phase of Covid-19 infection and they would be kept isolated onboard.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that all Port of Tauranga workers who were identified as having contact with the Rio De Le Plata crew have returned initial negative results.

Additional test results required for some port workers have also come back negative, although six results are pending.

The ministry said 72 port workers and been identified as contacts and of these 70 were deemed to require a day three test. So far, 64 have returned a negative test and the remaining six are pending.

Two pilots, who have also both tested negative, remain in isolation for 14 days since their possible exposure.

Local Tauranga public health staff will be providing individual advice to the border workers on when they can return to work, and most had been cleared for work today.

The ministry's statement said the public health unit would work closely with Port of Tauranga and companies employing port workers to improving access to those not currently vaccinated to get a vaccination.

The service will have staff on site from Monday to provide vaccinations to port staff for the next two weeks.

Health officials will be holding two information sessions with port workers tomorrow, with clinicians available to answer questions.

Border workers employed by the government have a deadline of 26 August to receive their first dose of the Covid vaccine, while those who are privately employed have until 30 September.

Public health staff have assessed that the risk to the community from the Rio de la Plata is low. The ministry is reviewing the incident response and will provide an initial update to the Covid-19 Response Minister next week.

A fuller review process will also incorporate the three other recent incidents involving the vessels Playa Zahara, Viking Bay and Mattina with infected crew, it said.

The ship, sailing under Singapore flag, was scheduled to sail to Napier originally.

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