COVID-19: Eleven crewmen on-board container ship off Tauranga test positive for COVID-19

Eleven crewmen on-board a container ship at sea off the coast of Tauranga have tested positive for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health announced on Monday morning.

Testing on-board the Rio De La Plata confirmed 11 of the 21 crewmen are carrying the virus. 

Health officials say it's likely at least some of the 11 crewmen are active cases of COVID-19. Further test results, expected to be available later on Monday, will help determine how many of the crew could be historical infections and therefore no longer contagious. 

Ninety-four port workers who spent time on the vessel while it was docked at the port have been stood down until a negative test result is returned, the Ministry of Health said.

"As an additional precautionary measure, 94 port workers who - as part of their work - spent time on the vessel while it was in port are now being contacted, provided with advice, tested and stood down until a negative result returned," a spokesperson for the ministry said.

"The usual precautions and protocols in place by port staff mean that any risks are appropriately managed. 

"Testing for those staff is being arranged at the port this morning."

The ship is linked to a COVID-positive Australian pilot who was on-board the vessel in Queensland last month. The pilot later developed symptoms and tested positive for the virus nine days after being aboard the Rio De La Plata.  

The pilot is confirmed to have the Delta variant, but has not been linked to any other cases in Queensland.

Initial concerns about the link to the pilot saw the loading of the vessel temporarily halted on Wednesday, August 4 in Tauranga. The ship was cleared later that day following an assessment and unloading was permitted to resume on Thursday, August 5.  

The crew were swabbed by public health staff in Tauranga as part of the entry requirements for the vessel to continue on to Napier, its next stop.

All of the crew on-board are reported to be well, with none reporting any symptoms. No crew members came port-side while the ship was being unloaded in Tauranga, the Ministry of Health said.