Coronavirus Covid 19: All port workers test negative, as Rio de la Plata leaves Tauranga
PM Jacinda Ardern and the Minister of the Covid-19 Response on unvaccinated workers at the port of Tauranga exposed to crew members aboard the container ship Rio de la Plata. Video / Mark Mitchell
All port workers potentially exposed to Covid-19 on an infected ship in Tauranga have tested negative – as the ship itself has moved away from New Zealand waters.
The health ministry has confirmed that the 72 workers at the port of Tauranga identified as contacts from Rio de la Plata have been cleared of the deadly virus.
Of these people, 70 have been identified as requiring a three-day Covid test after their potential exposure.
A total of 64 of these port workers returned a negative test and six are pending.
Two pilots in isolation managed for 14 days
“In addition, two pilots – both of whom have also tested negative – remain in isolation for 14 days since their possible exposure,” a ministry statement said.
“Local public health staff in Tauranga will provide individual advice to border workers on when they can return to work – the majority being allowed to work today. “
The news comes as the Singapore-flagged vessel left the Tauranga coast overnight and is now on its way to Malaysia – with infected crew members still on board.
The Rio de la Plata has been anchored off Tauranga for a few days after it was confirmed this week that 11 of its 21 crew members tested positive for Covid.
Vessel tracking websites, including Vessel Finder, show the vessel has left the area overnight and is due to arrive at Tanjung Pelepas port in Malaysia next weekend.
A spokeswoman for the port of Tauranga confirmed that the vessel left its anchorage outside the port of Tauranga and is on its way to Malaysia.
Despite confirmation that a number of crew members have contracted Covid, authorities say they remain asymptomatic.
Last night, health officials reported that the latest test result for a worker at the port of Tauranga came back negative for the virus.
A total of 110 people had to be tested for Covid-19 after being potentially exposed to the virus when the container ship was brought to the port of Tauranga.
The Rio de la Plata, a Singapore-flagged container ship, is the fourth overseas vessel confirmed to have Covid outbreaks as it passed through New Zealand waters in recent months.
The latest vessel affected is the Mattina, in Bluff, which reported positive cases on board last month.
The Spanish-flagged vessels Viking Bay and Playa Zahara have also been affected by Covid in the previous weeks.
The Mattina is still in quarantine at a secure berth in Bluff and yesterday morning 13 of the original 21 sailors were still on board the ship, the ministry said.
Five of the affected sailors completed their 14-day isolation period and were released on Saturday. They had consistently returned negative results, health officials said.
Another Mattina crew member was transferred from the boat at a later date and is still in a managed isolation center in Christchurch.
Two other sailors have since been released from hospital and are staying in accommodation organized by the Southern District Health Board.
They continue to be monitored by health workers and are reportedly recovering well.
The connection between the Rio de la Plata, a marine pilot and a Cairns taxi driver
The ship’s departure comes after Queensland health officials yesterday confirmed that an infected marine pilot linked to the Rio de la Plata has the same Delta strain as a taxi driver in Cairns.
The pilot, in his 30s, flew the container ship in Queensland last month.
He got off the ship on July 23 and was taken to Cairns airport by the taxi driver on July 26.
On July 31, the pilot – who is fully vaccinated – began to develop symptoms of Covid and subsequently tested positive for the virus.
The taxi driver, in his sixties and unvaccinated, subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
Because he had been contagious in the community for 10 days, Cairns was plunged into an instant three-day lockdown.
Health officials continue to call on port workers, their close contacts and members of the Tauranga community to “stay vigilant” and follow all health advice.
“Anyone in New Zealand who has symptoms compatible with Covid-19 should call Healthline (0800 358 5453) for advice on how to get tested.
“Anyone tested should self-isolate at home until they return a negative test.”