cases have been detected at New Zealand ports in the past week, according to
the Press Release, Science Media Centre.
One was a port
worker who is suspected to have caught the disease while working on a ship in
Auckland, and the other was a crew member on a ship docked in the Port of
Tauranga who returned a weak positive test result.
The SMC asked experts
to comment on pandemic port operations.
Medical Officer of Health, Toi Te Ora Public Health, comments:
units – most of which have a port in their region – have been very focused on
the maritime ports as another risk point.
Most people on a ship who develop symptoms will do that before they
“By far our
greatest risk is our airports, by virtue of the fact that so many people come
in through them, and they get here from other nations pretty much within 24
hours at the most. Whereas people coming in by ship have been sailing for at
least few days, and most of the ships arriving here have come from places more
distant – in which case they’ve been at sea for many days. Therefore most
people on a ship who develop symptoms will do that before they arrive here.
New Zealand’s strict regime for ship crews; for a ship docking at its
first port of call and when port workers go on the ship
“New Zealand has
instituted a pretty strict regime for ship crews. When a ship docks at its
first port of call, no one can get off until they satisfy the requirements for
the length of stay they’ve been at sea. The only exception is if one of the
crew is heading home: they have to apply for permission, then they can get
immediately off the ship, go straight to an airport, and fly home. At the
moment there’s essentially no shore leave, so that reduces one risk of ship
crews spreading the virus.
“The other risk is
when port workers go on the ship to load, resupply the galley, inspect the
ship, or whatever work it might be. The requirement for those port workers is
they must wear personal protective equipment – mask and gloves – when they’re
on the ship. As much as possible they must prevent themselves from getting
closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes with any of the crew. Sometimes
that’s not possible and they have to get closer than that, so we can’t
eliminate the risk. But now we have routine swabbing for all port workers. Also
any port worker turning up to work is under clear instructions that should they
have any symptoms they’re to turn around and go home.
There have been proposals to limit the number of international ports
in New Zealand
“There have been
proposals to limit the number of international ports in New Zealand. This would
not be technically difficult, and it would provide some limit on the number of
port workers on ships, but they might be on the ships for longer. So you win
some, you lose some in that respect. There would also be another consequence in
lost revenue for the closed ports and port workers left without a job to do.”