Air New Zealand’s chief medical officer, Dr Ben Johnston says the crew member who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday was “scrupulous” as an investigation into the incident has so far not revealed “anything we can identify that’s gone wrong”.
His comments come after the crew member, who returned to New Zealand from Japan on February 28, and returned a negative Covid-19 result, subsequently tested positive for the virus yesterday.
Only staff who return from high risk countries like the United States are required to quarantine in a hotel for two days before being tested.
Japan is deemed only a medium-risk country.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker is calling for the Government to enact stronger regulations for airline crew in the wake of the event.
"This does raise an issue for the difference in processes we have for returning aircrew and other people in New Zealand," Baker told 1 NEWS today.
"Obviously, you're relying a great deal on their behaviour."
While he doesn't think a longer quarantine period is necessary, the University of Otago professor does believe there should be a greater use of Covid-19 testing to weed out any incubating infections.
But Johnston says the crew member “scrupulously followed everything they were asked to do and on top of that have gone above and beyond that in several ways’.
He says “I do genuinely believe that the way our crew are operating is very low risk.
“And when you have a very well-controlled environment like that, the occasional rare events that you see are often very, very hard to track down why.
“They’re essentially just very bad luck,” Johnston says.
He says whenever “anything like this happens, we always review the situation to see - is there anything at all we can learn from this to make things safer?”.
“So far we haven’t identified anything but we’ll keep looking. And if we do find anything, then yes, we will implement changes.”
He says there is “constant review” going on between Air New Zealand and Ministry of Health who set the rules.
“This one event doesn’t necessarily impose a need for review, there’s review ongoing all of the time.”
Johnston says there was “nothing specific” arising from the event that indicated there was a need to tighten the rules for Air New Zealand crew.