Coronavirus: Several international seamen test positive in quarantine

The Sudima Hotel, near Christchurch Airport.
The Sudima Hotel, near Christchurch Airport. Photo credit: Google Maps

Several international seamen have tested positive for COVID-19 days after starting quarantine in Christchurch. 

A total of 440 fishermen from Russia and the Ukraine arrived on Friday and are isolating at the Sudima Hotel, near Christchurch Airport, Stuff reports. 

Sudima chief operating officer Les Morgan told Stuff the hotel is in lockdown.

The Ministry of Health said it was made aware of the test results on Tuesday afternoon.

"All are imported cases detected at routine day 3 testing. None involve cases in the community," it said.

"At this time, we are aware of 11 positive cases with 14 cases under further investigation. As further analysis is undertaken, these numbers may change. For example, some cases could be classed as historical."

The positive cases are part of a group who are the only people staying at this facility.

"All relevant public health measures are being taken. At facilities, strict infection, prevention and control processes are followed to minimise the risk to public and staff," the ministry said.

"This is an example of our border controls working as they should."

More details will be reported by the Ministry of Health on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Seafood New Zealand said all crew were tested for COVID-19 before they arrived in the country.

"All crewmen tested negative. This pre-flight test was beyond what the government required," they said.

"While we await to see how many cases there are, the fact that they were all detected in quarantine shows the system is working well."

Head of managed isolation and quarantine Air Commodore Darryn Webb said the Sudima is "well set up" and it is "working with local health authorities".

"As a precaution the facility has been locked down with guests confined to their rooms while preparations for quarantining is undertaken," he said.

"Additional security and nursing staff will be deployed and a special staff testing station will be established, this is to ensure safeguards are in place for staff and returnees. The workforce at this facility are dedicated to this site and do not work at other sites."

This hotel functions as both an isolation and quarantine facility, and it operates at a constant alert level 4 environment, Webb added. Protocols the hotel follows include physical distancing, regular and thorough cleaning in strict adherence to health guidelines, comprehensive information and guidance on using PPE, and daily health checks.

"Facilities also have their own specific security processes. This includes preventing entry of members of the public, minimising resident movement throughout the facility, maintaining resident safety and ensuring physical distancing is maintained," Webb said.

These new cases follow one new imported case that was announced on Tuesday. There are currently 33 active cases in New Zealand.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health announced it was investigating a suspected historical case in a crew member who is docked at the Port of Tauranga.

This person's infection hasn't been passed to any other crew member. They've all tested negative and have been on board the vessel for three weeks.

The person returned a weak positive test with a high CT value, which the ministry says "indicated an old infection".

"It appears most likely that this crew member had COVID-19 some time ago and is no longer infectious. The IVS Merlion arrived into New Zealand waters on October 15 after departing Indonesia on September 24," the Ministry of Health said on Monday.

New Zealand's only current active community case is an employee of a company that works on-board vessels at the Ports of Auckland, but is not a Ports of Auckland staffer or contractor.

Genome sequencing revealed the man's infection is not of a type that's yet been seen in New Zealand, confirming it's not linked to the country's recent second outbreak.

The source of the man's infection is still being investigated, but Dr Bloomfield said the ministry believes he was likely infected while working on a ship in Auckland called the Sofrana Surville on October 12 and 13.

The nature of his work means he boards ships that have travelled from overseas and have international crew members.