Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Two test positive on bulk carrier La Guimorais in Bluff

Covid-19 is once more in southern waters.

Two crew members on La Guimorais, a bulk carrier vessel now berthed at South Port at Bluff, yesterday recorded weak positive results to Covid-19.

“The crew members were tested as part of the process for allowing a crew member to depart the vessel and fly home on compassionate grounds,” a Ministry of Health spokesman said.

“All crew members remain aboard the vessel.”

Because the positive results were weak ones, health officials provisionally believed that they were historic cases.

“The bulk of the crew are vaccinated,” the spokesman said.

“None of the crew have symptoms or have reported a recent illness during the voyage.”

Nationally 190 community cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the Ministry of Health yesterday, 182 in Auckland, seven in Waikato and one in Northland.

Despite the high number of cases, just shy of the record 206 community cases announced on Saturday, Cabinet yesterday confirmed an easing of alert levels in Northland, Auckland and Waikato.

All 23 crew members in Bluff were re-tested yesterday and results were expected today.

A South Port spokeswoman confirmed it was notified on Sunday morning about the situation.

The vessel was in quarantine and isolated at its berth.

“New Zealand Customs and Public Health South are managing all vessel and crew interaction.”

Staff at South Port had been informed about the positive Covid-19 test, the South Port spokeswoman said.

The port’s shipping schedule reveals the boat, which had sailed to New Zealand from Malaysia, was shipping urea, to be offloaded in Bluff, and was due to sail out today at 6pm.

On the Marine Traffic website it says La Guimorais is a 179.99m-long bulk carrier that was built in 2014 and is sailing under the flag of Malta.

Its next destination is reportedly Timaru.

The vessel is the second ship with Covid-19-positive crew members aboard to have berthed at South Port in recent months.

When the Mattina arrived in Bluff in mid-July two Covid-19 stricken sailors had to be transferred to Southland Hospital for treatment, a visit which exposed serious shortcomings in the hospital’s pandemic preparations.

In September, the Southern District Health Board was told that cost-cutting measures taken 13 years ago meant that the sole isolation room in Southland Hospital’s emergency department did not have an anteroom — a physical requirement to keep staff and other patients safe.

Staff, who were already under strain due to a high number of patients in the department, had to improvise an anteroom from plastic sheeting.

The SDHB also had to arrange secure accommodation on shore for some of the crew, and transfer others to a managed isolation and quarantine facility in Christchurch — a 10-hour journey — as there are no facilities in the SDHB region.

The ministry spokesman said there had been two healthcare interactions so far with the La Guimorais, both Covid tests for its crew.

“Southern DHB has developed resurgence plans for its hospitals in relation to Covid-19, and as part of its current plans, it has been decided that any Covid-19-positive patients requiring hospital care will be transferred to Dunedin Hospital.

“Southland Hospital is prepared to stabilise patients as needed, and additional work is being undertaken at the hospital to enable it to better manage Covid-positive patients.”

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