Covid pair back on ship after visit to Southland Hospital

Two crew members with Covid-19 transported to Southland Hospital for assessment have returned to their container ship in Bluff.

Yesterday, it was announced there were seven more positive cases of Covid confirmed on board the Mattina, bringing the total number of cases to nine.

In an update today, the Ministry of Health said two of the crew who tested positive were taken to hospital this morning for assessment. All infection prevention and control measures were in place, including the appropriate use of personal protection equipment (PPE).

Southland Hospital acting general manager Jo McLeod said the two mariners had been assessed and did not require admission. They had returned to the ship.

Earlier today, the pair were transported by St John ambulance to Southland Hospital for assessment and possibly ongoing care.

"This was done in a carefully planned and co-ordinated way, working with St John, Infection Prevention and Control, Southland Hospital emergency department and other hospital staff, under the guidance of Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health."

Health officials were in ongoing communication with the captain and spoke to all crew at least daily to discuss their symptoms and wellbeing, consistent with current Ministry of Health guidelines.

If the crew were required to be transferred to managed isolation and quarantine, the DHB would work with the Ministry of Health and MIQ to ensure this was done using standard infection prevention and control protocols, including the use of appropriate PPE.

Southland Hospital and wider SDHB staff had been proactively putting plans and processes in place, in the event that any of the mariners from the Mattina might require hospital assessment.

This included the DHB's infection and prevention and control staff visiting all areas of Southland Hospital to check procedures and PPE.

The Mattina is the third vessel in New Zealand waters to have an outbreak of the coronavirus on...
The Mattina is the third vessel in New Zealand waters to have an outbreak of the coronavirus on board. Photo: supplied
Southland Hospital and wider DHB staff had been kept informed about this situation, and the importance of following all infection prevention and control policies and procedures, as well as personal safety and hygiene practices.

Visitors to all Southern hospitals were reminded about the importance of using hand sanitiser, not coming to the hospital as a visitor if they had cold or flu symptoms, and using the Covid-19 tracer app to scan QR codes for contact tracing purposes.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at this afternoon's media Covid-19 briefing that officials were assessing whether the rest of the crew who had tested positive for Covid-19 would stay on the ship for their entire quarantine period.

There would be regular testing of crew who were yet to test positive for the virus. Results of additional testing of the crew would be reported tomorrow. 

The Ministry expected to have further information about the source of those infections when whole genome sequencing is completed in the next few days.

Covid-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins said decisions on whether Covid-19 crew would stay onboard ships were based on public health advice based on a number of factors.

"If people need additional medical care then it's often safest for everybody to take them off the ship.

"If they can safely isolate and recover on the ship then that is used as a potential."

It also depended on the size of the ship.

"Bear in mind we are dealing with three different ships at the moment - they are all of a different size and a different nature.

"Some of the smaller ships it can be quite difficult, because people will be living in a dormitory-like environment on the ship and therefore it is often safer to take them off and put them in an MIQ environment."

Meanwhile, there were no new cases of Covid-19 to report in the community or in managed isolation facilities in New Zealand today.

The Mattina is the third vessel to pass through New Zealand waters to be struck by Covid-19.

Thirteen of the 18-strong crew of the Playa Zahara fishing vessel are now in managed isolation and quarantine in Christchurch.

Five staff remain onboard the ship and plans are in place for regular health checks for them. Plans are also in place if anyone becomes sick.

A total of 15 crew members from the Viking Bay tested positive for Covid before that.


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