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The captain of the Covid-19-stricken container vessel Mattina and two of his crew have been evacuated from the ship’s Bluff mooring.
Of the remaining crew on board the vessel, which arrived in Bluff on Sunday with suspected Covid-19 cases among its crew, 15 have now tested positive to the pandemic disease and the other three are believed to have had Covid-19 in the past but to be no longer infectious.
The ship’s captain is now at an unidentified DHB-provided facility, where he is self-isolating.
The two crew to have tested negative were to be transferred to a Christchurch-based quarantine facility yesterday.
"All three were safely transported to onshore facilities, under the same strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full PPE, regularly used to transport people arriving from overseas to MIQ facilities," a Ministry of Health spokesman said.
In both situations the public health risk to the community had been deemed low, he said.
"These plans have been put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the negative crew members at the same time as the health and wellbeing of members of the community."
If the captain needed to return to Mattina urgently, a plan was in place to manage that securely, he said.
The remaining crew are to remain quarantined on board the Mattina to maintain it, but they are barred from having direct contact with any port staff.
Late Thursday night health staff finished genome sequencing samples from nine of the 15 infected crew members, which confirmed they had caught the highly infectious Delta strain of Covid-19.
The sequencing showed that the cases aboard Mattina were not linked to any other confirmed Covid-19 cases in New Zealand.
Indonesia or Singapore are the likely ports of call where crew members might have contracted the disease.
"The health and welfare of the crew, and wider public health issues, are being overseen by Southern District Health Board’s medical officers of health, who are working closely with maritime, port and other government agencies," the spokesman said.