NZ sailor tests positive for COVID-19 amid South East Asia wargames

A crew member on a New Zealand warship conducting military exercises in the South China Sea has tested positive for COVID-19.

The infected sailor, who is vaccinated, is onboard the Navy's frigate, the HMNZS Te Kaha.

The sailor returned a positive result after a port visit to Guam, a US island territory in Micronesia. 

Guam has recorded more than 220 COVID-19 deaths and reported 95 new cases on Thursday. 

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson told Newshub the crew member will remain on the vessel. 

"The sailor, who is asymptomatic, is receiving medical advice and support, and is in isolation on the ship".

In total, there are 174 crew on board the frigate. The remaining crew have all returned negative test results and the NZDF says all are vaccinated. 

Despite the positive result, the Te Kaha will continue to take part in a training exercise in the Philippine and South China Sea alongside vessels from Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Malaysia. 

The NZDF spokesperson said measures are being taken to prevent potential transmission on the ship including mask-wearing and physical distancing. 

"Movements on board the ship have been restricted, and all crew members are also having daily health screening and temperature checks. The 174 crew members on board the ship are vaccinated."

The exercise did not involve physical contact with sailors from other nations. 

"The naval component of the exercise is being carried out 'contactlessly' off the coast of Singapore and the Malaysian Peninsula, with no physical interactions with personnel from other militaries," an NZDF spokesperson said. 

The multinational exercise called Bersama Gold 21 involves sea and air drills.

In September, the NZDF said the purpose of the exercise was to show commitment to Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA). 

"Deploying naval and air assets solidifies our long-standing relationships with our FPDA partners and our on-going commitment to the region," Rear Admiral Gilmour said.

The HMNZS Aotearoa has also been deployed for the event. 

The South China Sea is one of the most disputed regions in the world.