Minister of Health says latest case of Covid-19 community transmission was likely picked up in Auckland

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins says the shipping industry worker now infected with Covid-19 likely picked it up in Auckland rather than Taranaki where he travelled prior to becoming symptomatic.

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Chris Hipkins says given the time of the man’s symptoms, it was unlikely the man was infected in Taranaki. Source: 1 NEWS

The case of community transmission was announced today after the man's positive Covid-19 result was reported to Hipkins just after 6pm last night.

It involves an Auckland-based man who travelled to Taranaki on Wednesday the 14th of October as part of his role working in the shipping industry.

Hipkins says the man worked on a ship in New Plymouth last week, but given the time of infection "it's more likely" he got infected at a ship in Auckland rather than a ship in Taranaki. He said all "ships of interest" that were being investigated.

"Those are the things that contact tracing will work through at the moment, they will look at every ship that he has been on over the last fortnight or so, where those ships have gone, testing for the crew, so if they are still in New Zealand waters they will look to test the crews on those ships," he said. 

"And then obviously we will look at other things that we needed to look at, inluding the environmental factors like surface testing."

Hipkins says the man was regularly tested as part of maritime border controls and the system was working as it should.

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"This is exactly what the surveillance testing that we do at the ports and at the airport is designed to pick up."

At a press briefing today, Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the ship the man worked on in Taranaki is now bound for Napier, where it is scheduled to arrive this afternoon.

The crew on board are being treated as close contacts.

“We have the public health unit in Napier and other port authorities there working carefully and closely to get in place plans to isolate and test the crew there once they arrive,” Bloomfield said. 

Bloomfield says no one on board is symptomatic at this time and no plans have been made to have workers quarantine on board the vessel.

Port Taranaki today released a statement saying staff are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Taranaki District Health Board.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the Taranaki District Health Board, and taking instruction from them,” Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said.

“We are also working through the port entry and exit records to determine what contact the confirmed Covid-19 case had with Port Taranaki staff. At this stage, the Ministry of Health has determined only one staff member had brief contact with the confirmed case."

That staff member is being contacted and tested.

“The Ministry of Health has said that the risk to the New Plymouth public is low and that the person had limited contact with Port Taranaki staff," Roper said. 

“At this stage, the source of the infection is still to be determined. But as has been our health and safety practice throughout Covid-19, our pilots who boarded the vessel that the individual worked on wore appropriate PPE and practised social distancing."