Concerns passengers on COVID-19-infected cruise ship are disembarking at Picton with cold-like symptoms

Passengers on a COVID-19-infected cruise ship that docked in Picton are walking around the town with cold-like symptoms, a pharmacist said.

On Wednesday, the Ovation of the Seas sailed into the coastal town carrying thousands of crew and passengers, including 129 passengers and two staff members who have COVID-19.

It is on one of the first cruise ships to arrive in the country in two years and while the Marlborough town is welcoming tourists after a tough couple of years - they just wish they will obey the rules.

Pharmacist at Picton Health Care Pharmacy Graeme Smith said a number of cruise passengers have been coming into the store seeking remedies for cough and cold-type symptoms.

He said the passengers are coming in waves of groups, with many not wearing masks. 

"It's concerning because we have staff with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID, but the other thing is there are no local pharmacists in the area," Smith said.

He is the sole pharmacist at the store and if he caught COVID-19 it could take days for an out-of-town pharmacist to come and fill in. While there is one other pharmacy in Picton it is run by his wife, putting the town in a dilemma if they catch the virus.

"It could have serious ramifications for the continuity of the town," Smith said.

Smith said he is pleased to see cruise ships back after the tourism businesses in Picton did it really hard for two years, he just wishes they would either wear a mask or stay away when they are sick.

"I'm not trying to create any great controversy… For the sake of the survival of the tourism business in this town, we welcome cruise ship passengers we just want them to obey some of the rules and respect our staff."

If a passenger tests positive on a cruise ship, they must isolate in their cabin and their cabin, the Ministry of Health said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Te Whatu Ora told RNZ Royal Caribbean, the owner of the ship Ovation of the Seas, sought clarification of the rules on Wednesday.

Royal Caribbean previously told RNZ in a statement, positive cases had to isolate in their cabin for five days and if they still had symptoms, on days six and seven. It also said all passengers over age 12 were fully vaccinated.

The MOH said from now on, the vessel would be following the country's mandatory seven-day isolation rule.