Taranaki DHB work with Port Taranaki to test unwell vessel crew members

12 July 2021

Taranaki DHB’s Public Health Unit (PHU) are working in collaboration with Port Taranaki to provide COVID-19 testing for crew members on a fishing vessel who are reportedly unwell with flu-like symptoms.

Spanish vessel the Playa Zahara is expected to berth at Port Taranaki today, Tuesday 13 July, after applying for permission for a change of crew. Fifteen of the 18 crew members onboard have experienced a recent flu-like illness.

Taranaki’s medical officer of health, Dr Jonathan Jarman, says the PHU and Port Taranaki are taking a precautionary and controlled approach to testing the crew, and will be following the quarantine procedures outlined in the Health Act 1956.

“We’ll be following the same quarantine process used for years in shipping. The vessel will be guided to a special area at the port which is set aside for vessels under quarantine. There won’t be a need for anyone to board the ship, and crew members will disembark the vessel one by one to be tested on the wharf. They won’t be coming into contact with any port staff or members of the public, so this process provides very low risk to the community.

“Our testing staff are all vaccinated and will be wearing full personal protective equipment to ensure safety precautions are robust during testing,” says Dr Jarman.

Once testing has been completed the vessel will then depart from the port and remain off-shore until test results are available on Thursday. If the results show there is no evidence of COVID-19 onboard, then the vessel will be granted permission for a crew change.

Dr Jarman wants to reassure the Taranaki community that the testing is simply “business as usual,” and that assessments show this situation as having a very low risk to public health.

“We need to have certainty about the flu-like illness on the vessel so this is just us being on the safe side.”

Last updated: Wednesday, July 14, 2021

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