Americold boss adamant virus didn't come from Melbourne store

There are four cases at Americold in Mt Wellington in Auckland. Photo: NZ Herald
The Americold coolstore in Mt Wellington Auckland has been at the centre of Auckland's Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: NZ Herald
The managing director of Americold international says he can "completely rule out" any suggestion that Auckland's Covid-19 cluster was caused by freight from his Melbourne factory.

Americold managing director Richard Winnall said the company's Melbourne site - which had two workers test positive for Covid-19 last month - has not shipped anything to Auckland for "months and months".

"Americold have investigated and we can completely rule out there is no transfer of product between these facilities in Australia or New Zealand," Winnall told the Herald today.

"We can completely rule out transmission through that speculation on freight. It's just not possible because there is no freight or supply chain connecting those two properties [Mt Wellington and Melbourne]."

However, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said earlier today that the Ministry of Health was still undertaking genomic testing to determine any link between the Melbourne Americold facility and the Auckland outbreak.

"It's part of the overall puzzle, and we're leaving no stone unturned," Bloomfield told reporters.

But Winnall said his Melbourne facility had informed him they actually had no record of shipping to the Mt Wellington site.

"In fact for months and months [there has been no freight between Melbourne and Auckland]. I can't tell you how long other than my Melbourne facility has confirmed they have no record of shipping to that Mt Wellington facility."

Winnall also said Americold has undertaken its own investigation of their two Melbourne workers who tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks ago and they considered that investigation now closed.

"The facts of that are we've got a closed investigation. An old case now in our Melbourne facility where we had – some three weeks ago now – two employees that had been confirmed with Covid," Winnall said.

"We went through a similar investigation process and we've now confirmed that we had no evidence of transmission at the site, that that didn't grow into a cluster.

"We believe that was just two employees that contracted Covid-19 from outside the workplace, that happened to be employees of ours.

"Obviously we went through a complete investigation with the department of health in Australia in that regard, and that is now effectively a closed case, and there's no further risk or probabilities on that."

Winnall said Ministry of Health staff were still at the Mt Wellington site today and they were yet to know when they could clean and reopen it.

The Americold international managing director said they had identified a workforce of 33, including direct employees and other contractors - who were being tested for Covid-19 from their Mt Wellington site.

Of that 33, nine had tested positive for Covid-19, eight test results were still pending, and the rest were negative. None of the nine positive Americold workers were in hospital.

Winnall also said all the other close contacts of the Mt Wellington site tested had come back negative.

However, in some good news for the world's largest cold storage freight business - Winnall said they have been given the all clear from the Ministry of Health to reopen their Auckland Airport site.

"We have now received as of late last night every single result related to employees and or other contractors at that site. They've come back all negative, and we've been given the clear to reopen that facility," he said.

"Today we're going through and doing a precautionary clean and we'll resume normal operations again on Monday morning. That's an excellent result."

The Herald has contacted the Ministry of Health for comment.

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