Coronavirus: 13 sailors on the Covid ship in Wellington confirmed with the Delta variant
The highly contagious Delta version of Covid-19 has been confirmed in 13 of the infected sailors who came to Wellington aboard a Spanish deep-sea fishing vessel this week.
There were two confirmed cases on the ship when it docked in Wellington on Monday flying the flag of maritime quarantine. The entire crew was tested for the virus on arrival with results, delivered on Tuesday, confirming that 15 of the 20 on board had been infected.
The Department of Health confirmed on Tuesday that 13 of them had the Delta version of Covid-19. The 12 new cases were genomically linked while the 13th – which had been previously confirmed – appeared to be unrelated.
The ministry said on Wednesday that another crew member had been quarantined after becoming ill. Four remained on board.
* Spanish fishing vessel to await Covid-19 test results off Port Taranaki
* Covid-19: No new community case, 18 cases linked to the border including sailors from Viking Bay
* Covid-19: Confirmation of 15 cases of Covid-19 on Viking Bay, moored in Wellington
Wellington City Council spokesperson Richard MacLean said the council was facing two issues with the ship. A valve below sea level had been left open, which meant that seawater was entering the vessel. There was no risk of sinking.
The ship would usually send a diver to plug the hole – which was supposed to be there – but with so many crew in quarantine, there was no one to do it. The council arranged for a diver to plug the hole.
A miller truck operator, in full protective gear, was also recruited to suck the sewage out of the vessel. Some media reports of a sewage leak were incorrect, MacLean said.
“We know the Delta variant is harder to contain,” said Siouxsie Wiles, a microbiologist at the University of Auckland. Part of the added precaution was to make sure that the ventilation systems could not carry virus particles into areas of the hotel where there were uninfected people.
Department of Health director of public health Caroline McElnay told RNZ steps were being taken to minimize movement of the virus between chambers of the Grand Mercure. The sailors were on different floors from other customers, had their own space for fresh air and their own smoking areas.
Seafood NZ Managing Director Jeremy Helston confirmed that the Viking Bay was not a New Zealand owned or flagged vessel and therefore was not licensed to fish in New Zealand waters, which extended to 200 nautical miles off the coast.
Meanwhile, Customs Maritime Group Director Stephen Waugh confirmed on Wednesday morning that plans were still underway for what would happen if the five crew members aboard the Viking Bay, who had initially tested negative for the virus, were infected.
Waugh confirmed on Wednesday morning that New Zealand authorities had only spoken to the ship’s agent and still had to speak to the Spanish owners to find out what would happen if all, or some, of the other five were to be quarantined .
“We don’t know where he’s going to head now,” he said.
The requirement to have a certain number of crews was a mix between maritime law and owners’ requirements, which took into account factors such as insurance.
He confirmed that the quarantined crew were at Wellington’s Grand Mercure, at the southern end of The Terrace.