The following Q and As respond to a number of commonly-asked questions relating to implementation of the requirements at the Port of Tauranga under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020 and the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Maritime Border) Order (No 2) 2020.
Why is there testing at the Port of Tauranga?
We are currently testing those who work at the border, including those who work at ports and at Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities. This is part of the government’s rapid response to the current outbreak, to help detect any cases and to protect workers, their families, whānau and communities.
Is everyone required to be tested?
Workers in certain higher-risk occupations at the Ports of Auckland, the Port of Tauranga and Auckland International Airport will be tested once every 14 days.
Who is considered high risk?
Higher risk workers are:
- Pilots and stevedores carrying out work on or around ships
- Anyone who has boarded a ship at Port of Tauranga or Ports of Auckland since 21 July (eg ships’ agents or welfare workers)
- Anyone else who has been at Port of Tauranga or Ports of Auckland who has symptoms.
We understand that a testing method that is less invasive than the current nasopharyngeal swab will shortly be available. Will it be available to border workers required to undergo frequent re-testing, and from when?
The Ministry of Health’s Technical Advisory Committee has confirmed that for border workers being regularly tested (weekly or fortnightly) who struggle to tolerate the current nasopharyngeal swab, a single swab used on both the oropharynx (throat) and anterior nasal passage is an acceptable alternative option.
The Ministry of Health is now working with testing providers to make the alternative swab option available to all border workers undergoing regular weekly or fortnightly testing. Our aim is to have this up and running before the end of October.
This alternate swab option is being made available as an option that can be requested by any border worker undergoing mandatory testing.
The nasopharyngeal swab remains the preferred option due to its higher effectiveness in detecting the virus. However, as border workers are undergoing testing at such high frequency (fortnightly and, in some cases, weekly), the greater frequency offsets the reduced effectiveness.
If a ship arrives in port with a New Zealand crew member who wishes to disembark to return home, do the rest of the crew need to be tested even if they are remaining on the ship which is immediately departing to sail for an overseas port?
Yes. The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Maritime Border) Order (No 2) 2020: (https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-response-planning/covid-19-epidemic-notice-and-orders#maritime) requires that all crew on board the vessel need to meet the low risk indicators, including a negative COVID-19, before any person on board can disembark to enter the NZ community. Everyone on the ship must also have done 14 days of quarantine or isolation. This starts from the last contact or last port of call (whichever is later).
In the situation described above, in order for the returning NZ crew member to be authorised to disembark, the whole crew would need to meet the low risk indicators. If they return a negative test and meet the other low risk indicators, they could then be authorised to take shore leave.
If the ship on which the New Zealand crew member arrived was immediately departing New Zealand, and the crew departed before being tested the returning New Zealand crew member would have to go into a Managed Isolation or Quarantine Facility (MIQF) for 14 days, as for travellers entering NZ by air.
If the returning New Zealand crew member arrives at a port at a location where there is no MIFQ, and they are not able to remain on the ship because of the ship’s imminent departure, the local health authorities would have to consider how to manage the crew member’s quarantine.
A Medical Officer of Health can determine a different place of quarantine in these circumstances, bearing in mind the need to manage the public health risk around transfer of such a person to an MIQF elsewhere in New Zealand.
Is the local Port Authority notified if a ship’s crew are unwell, symptomatic, or test positive for COVID-19?
The local Port Authority, Harbour Master, and Regional Public Health Service must be notified if there is anyone on board a ship that are showing COVID symptoms. Shipping agents can arrange for health professionals (in full PPE) to visit the ship, assess the crew member and undertake a swab for a COVID test. If clinically appropriate, the crew member may be transported directly to hospital for further assessment and care.
It is required and standard practice for a ship to notify if any of its’ crew are seriously unwell at any time, regardless of whether we are in a COVID-19 response. Health Protection Offices are routinely advised of gastro bugs, flu etc on board a ship.
Is there onsite testing being carried out at the Port of Tauranga?
GPs and PHOs are aware of arrangements in place for border workers to be tested, if they are unable to access testing available at the port where they work. They are aware that there is no charge for these tests.