Crew stay on vessel in Bluff after positive Covid-19 tests

    The La Guimorais docked at South Port in Bluff. Photo: Toni McDonald

    THE two Covid-19 cases reported on a bulk carrier vessel berthed at Bluff are historical.

    Two crew members on La Guimorais, recorded weak positive results to Covid-19 on Monday.

    “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.

    This was confirmed on Tuesday when the Ministry of Health issued a statement in its daily update, saying they had classified the cases as historical.

    “There is therefore no risk to other crew or port workers.”

    The bulk of the crew were vaccinated and none had shown symptoms or had reported recent illness during the voyage.

    All 23 crew members in Bluff were re-tested on Monday.

    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.

    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 (SDHB) was told cost-cutting measures taken 13 years ago meant the sole isolation room in Southland Hospital’s emergency department did not have an anteroom 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, as there are no facilities in the SDHB region.

    The ministry spokesman said the Southern DHB had since developed resurgence plans which would see any Covid-19-positive patients requiring hospital care 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.”