Home > Global, Social Issues > Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

[Blogger’s Note: Events from 1.30PM, 17 August have overtaken this story.]

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covid 19

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Prologue

16 June, NSW: A Sydney limousine driver ferrying airline flight crews is found to be infected with covid19. Analysis confirms it is the Delta variant.Two days later, community transmission is reported where a Sydney woman had only fleeting contact with the limousine driver.

22 June, NSW: The “Bondi cluster” increases to 21 cases.

22 June, Wellington: Aotearoa New Zealand’s government announces a “travel pause” with New South Wales, effective 11.59PM. As reported;

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covid australia trans tasman bubble

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Strike 1

23 June, Wellington: The news shocked the entire country: a traveller from Sydney to Wellington had tested positive for covid19:

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covid 19

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The male traveller had spent the weekend of 19/21 June in Wellington. After only a fleeting two day visit, the country was thrown into an urgency not seen since last year’s covid outbreak and lockdown.

The response was immediate. Wellington’s Level Alert was raised to Two. It was quickly determined that the traveller had mixed with  thousands of other people as he visited popular tourist spots; retailers; a bar; cafe; hotel, etc:

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Authorities only knew of his precise movements because he – unless most New Zealanders  – was scanning the QR code wherever he went. It was this meticulousness that allowed the Ministry of Health to ascertain not just where he had been, but who might have been in close contact with him.

We owe this person a great deal.

Four days after the first announcement, and upon his return to Sydney, the traveller’s partner tested positive for covid19. It was announced at around the same time that – unsurprisingly – the traveller’s covid variant was indeed the highly infectious Delta strain.

It was the same strain that was rapidly spreading through Sydney from where the traveller had come from. By a miracle, as days passed, there were no reports of community transmission in Wellington. None of his 2,609 close contacts tested positive for the virus. Neither were there any traces of the virus in the city’s wastewater.

We had dodged the bullet. Strike 1.

Strike 2

5/6 July, Auckland-New Plymouth: The country was stunned to learn that relieving foreign ship crews were landing in Aotearoa, without the full 14 day MIQ. One crew was transported to their vessel, the Spanish-owned Viking Bay:

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covid 19 playa zahara

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Alarmingly, the MoH disclosed:

A Ministry spokesperson says they entered into the country under an exemption so they did not have to quarantine.

“These mariners entered into New Zealand under an exemption contained within the maritime border order.

“It’s important to note that all people such as mariners who this exemption applies to are still required to comply with full infection prevention controls.”

It is as if  leading Ministry of Health officials are oblivious as to the vastly more infectious nature of the Delta variant. Remember that the Sydney limousine driver infected a 70 year old woman at a local cafe with only the briefest of interactions. As New South Wales’ Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, pointed out:

“This indicates that the initial case was highly infectious, as transmission must have occurred through fleeting exposure, noting that the woman who caught the infection at the café was actually seated outside and there was no known contact with the initial case.”

The van driver who transported the nine seafarers was put into isolation, as were two other Ports of Auckland workers.

The Ministry’s insistence that there was “minimal additional risk to any of the contacts during the transfer process” rings dangerously hollow when we realise that the current crisis facing NSW started of with one highly infectious person.

At last two Ports of Auckland workers and the van driver were put at risk of infection; potential serious illness, and possibly worse.

The drive from Auckland to Port Taranaki is a five hour journey.  During that journey, the travellersstopped to use the toilets at a Hamilton isolation facility”.

It is difficult to accept they made only one “pit stop”.  With nine individual seafarers and a van driver, is it credible they all needed to use the toilets simultaneously? And as Maritime Workers Union national secretary, Craig Harrison, added:

“It’s a fair old drive from Auckland to New Plymouth when you think about it. If the driver’s coming back from New Plymouth, if it’s down and back in one day, he must be refuelling somewhere.”

It is unclear where else the van may have stopped for food, toilet visit, or to re-fuel. And if the van had broken down, with two infectious seafarers onboard; had they interacted with passers-by or professional road-side assistance, the scenario for community transmission would have been set.

12 July, Wellington: A week after the five-hour drive from Auckland to Port Taranaki, the Viking Bay docked in Wellington.

13 July, Wellington: According to the MoH, fifteen of the Viking Bay’s 20 crew were transferred to an on-shore MIQ facility at the Grand Mercure Hotel. Including the original two from the Auckland-to-New Plymouth drive, all fifteen were now infected with the Delta variant.

The following day, another crewmember – one of the remaining five aboard the Viking Bay – became unwell and joined his comrades in MIQ. This despite the fact that same seafarer had recently returned a ‘negative’ covid test.

We had apparently (?) dodged another bullet. Strike 2.

Strike 3

18 July, Lyttelton Port: Another ship, the Spanish-flagged Playa Zahara docked at the port. The Delta variant had spread easily throughout the ship, infecting three crewmembers. A further thirteen crew also tested positive for covid, most likely Delta as well.

Again the relieving crew for the fishing vessel landed in Auckland on 18 June and spent only two days in MIQ. According to MoH,  they were tested before their arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand and again prior to boarding their ship. It is unclear when the second testing took place.

4 August, Port of Tauranga: Matters took a dangerous turn when the Singapore registered container ship, Rio De La Plata, docked at the port to unload its cargo.

Initially, 72 Tauranga port workers boarded the Rio De La Plata.

Eleven of the 21 crew aboard the ship tested positive for covid. According to the MoH, “Officials have worked with employers to identify 94 port workers who had contact with the ship, unloading cargo in shifts over the four-day period it was berthed at Port of Tauranga from 6pm on Wednesday 4 August to 2pm on Saturday 7 August.”

The number was subsequently increased to 98.

Writing for Stuff media, was able to reveal that no one at Port of Tauranga or Bay of Plenty District Health Board was keeping track of who was or was not vaccinated at the port.

Worse was to come.

It was also revealed that port workers were needlessly exposed to infected crew aboard the Rio De La Plata  a second time:

The Rio de la Plata was initially given the okay to berth in Tauranga on Wednesday. Then it was suddenly shut down that same night. Then it was given the all clear again the next morning. And now, half of its crew have tested positive for Covid-19.

Ports of Tauranga management put their side  of events:

The ship was tied up at Port of Tauranga from 6pm on Wednesday 4 August to 2pm on Saturday 7 August…

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… A Port of Tauranga pilot boarded the vessel at approximately 5pm on Wednesday and brought the ship in to the Tauranga Container Terminal. At about 9pm, Customs NZ unexpectedly shut down operations on the ship and the local Public Health Unit advised Port of Tauranga that our pilot and the stevedores unloading the ship should go home and isolate while awaiting further instructions.

On Thursday morning, Government agencies have clarified the situation and the Public Health Unit advised us that operations can resume on the vessel and there was no need for workers to isolate.

This despite Port of Tauranga admitted that they had been advised the day before the Rio de la Plata had been boarded by an Australian Queensland pilot who later tested positive for the virus:

On Tuesday, 3 August, Port of Tauranga received an alert from Maritime NZ that the ship had been boarded two weeks ago by an Australian pilot, who had tested positive for Covid-19. Maritime NZ subsequently cleared the ship for pilot boarding. The ship was also cleared to berth by the Medical Officer of Health at the local Public Health Unit as part of the normal free pratique process.

11 August: the Rio de la Plata  departed Port of Tauranga. All port workers and two pilots tested negative for covid.

The Australian pilot who became infected was not so lucky:

The ship is linked to a COVID case in an Australian pilot who was onboard the vessel July in Queensland and who later developed symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19 nine days after being aboard the vessel. The Australian pilot is confirmed to have the Delta variant and has not been linked to any other Queensland cases.

Yet again, bullet dodged. Strike 3.

Out!

[This part written after 1.30pm, 17 August. However, it largely follows the original ]

The high-transmission rate of Delta Covid was starkly illustrated in Australia, as described above, when a woman at a cafe came into brief, passing contact with a limousine driver.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the insanely high degree of transmissability of Delta Covid was reinforced at Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility:

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covid - jet park

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Every aspect of the increased dangerous nature of Delta Covid, combined with Aotearoa New Zealand’s policies toward foreign ship crews avoiding full fourteen-day MIQ; and haphazard protocols followed by port workers with visiting ships – does not bode well for us.

Little wonder that the Prime Minister was also uneasy about our vulnerability when it came to maritime traffic:

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Delta covid is unforgiving.  We are tempting Fate with our complacency. Someone at the Ministry of Health has not been paying attention.

We must do better.

Meanwhile, from the Death Cult Capitalists

For ACT leader David Seymour, opening up Aotearoa New Zealand couldn’t come fast enough:

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And to drive home the point, he added:

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That could mean living with Covid-19, even if that led to large outbreaks, more hospitalisations and even deaths…” – Mr Seymour can be very casual with other peoples’ lives. Almost sociopathic.

To be clear what Mr Seymour is calling for:

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“We couldn’t afford a situation in New Zealand to have it out of control in the community because it would risk collapsing or compromising our health system.”

It is not often a politician calls for the planned exposure of a deadly virus on to our country; casually dismisses the inevitable deaths (and not just from unvaccinated); and doesn’t comprehend the damage it would cause our health system.

Not only would opening up and “living with covid” kill – our hospital wards would quickly fill with hundreds of covid patients. This would take beds normally occupied by others with injuries and illnesses. Hip operations would be cancelled: no beds. Injuries from a natural disaster would not be treated: no beds. Life-saving transplants could not go ahead: no beds.

That is the nightmare scenario ACT leader David Seymour would visit upon his fellow Kiwis.

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twitter - covid

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References

ABC News: How the potentially ‘inexcusable’ actions of a limo driver put Sydney on COVID-19 alert

Sky News: Woman in 70s contracted COVID from ‘fleeting exposure’ to Bondi limo driver

NSW Government:  COVID-19 (Coronavirus) statistics – 22 June 2021

Otago Daily Times: NZ pauses travel bubble with New South Wales

Ministry of Health: Australian traveller tests positive for COVID-19

RNZ: Sydney Covid-19 case flew to Wellington last weekend

Stuff media: Covid19 NZ – Wellington enters alert level 2

Stuff media: Covid19 – If Aussie tourist who visited Wellington has Delta variant, alert level shift may be needed

TVNZ: Partner of Sydney man who visited Wellington tests positive for Covid-19

Otago Daily Times: Sydney man who visited Wellington had Delta variant

The Conversation: New Zealand has managed to dodge the COVID-19 bullet, again. Here’s why

RNZ: Australian traveller who visited Wellington has Delta variant

RNZ: Two mariners who were in Auckland test positive for Covid-19

RNZ: Covid-19 – Mariners driven from Auckland to Taranaki pose ‘very low risk’

RNZ: Fishing vessel with two Covid-19 cases will dock in Wellington

MoH: Update on Viking Bay fishing vessel

RNZ: Public at risk, confine infected mariners to MIQ rooms – Des Gorman

RNZ: Another Viking Bay crew member moved to Wellington MIQ facility

MoH: No community cases; 2 new cases in managed isolation; 2 historical cases; Taranaki wastewater update

MoH: Update on Whole Genome Sequencing for Playa Zahara

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Most of infected Playa Zahara crew to go to Christchurch MIQ

Stuff media: Explainer – How a Covid-19 carrying ship docked in NZ, and why workers were let aboard

MoH: More than 20,000 daily vaccine doses; no community cases; two cases of COVID-19, two historical cases in managed isolation; Rio De La Plata update

Otago Daily Times: No community cases in NZ, port workers all negative

MoH: Container Ship at Sea off Tauranga tests positive for COVID-19

Stuff media: Who, exactly, is monitoring vaccination numbers at the port in Tauranga?

Port of Tauranga: Rio de la Plata Update – Tuesday 10 August

RNZ: Covid-19 transmission at Jet Park when doors opened for seconds

Stuff media: PM wants to stop foreign fishing boats from changing crews in New Zealand

Otago Daily Times/NZ Herald: Seymour – Open borders next year regardless of vaccination levels

RNZ: Covid-19 – Delta in NZ community would ‘risk collapsing or compromising our health system’

The Conversation: Most COVID deaths in England now are in the vaccinated – here’s why that shouldn’t alarm you

Twitter: @GrumpyYetAmusin8.1AM – deadly virus – eugenicist – 8.11AM  Aug 12, 2021

Additional

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Viking Bay mariners broke MIQ rules in Wellington

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

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Acknowledgement: Shaun Yeo

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Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

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  1. Merle Turner
    18 August 2021 at 11:07 am

    I cannot open this, sadly.

    >

  2. Sally's Husband
    19 August 2021 at 10:55 am

    Well written, Frank. Its clear that not only people have been complacent about scanning the QR code (which we do assiduously),but the Ministry Of Health has been blase about allowing in foreign ship crews without the full 2 week MIQ.

    I wouldn’t be least surprised if that was the source of the current outbreak. Time will tell I guess.

  1. 20 August 2021 at 7:00 am
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