A large group of international seamen have tested positive for Covid-19, days after arriving in Christchurch.
Stuff previously reported about 440 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine were due to arrive on two flights chartered by fishing companies – the first of which is thought to have touched down from Moscow via Singapore on Friday.
Many of the 237 people onboard have been isolating at the Sudima Hotel, near Christchurch Airport, since their arrival.
Sudima chief operating officerLes Morgan said the hotel was in lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.
A staff member had contacted him and told him there were a “number of infections”.
Morgan said he was waiting on an update from health officials, which was expected at 4pm.
A source close to the hotel said “it’s a major outbreak”.
Stuff has been told as many as 25 people are impacted, but it’s unclear how many of them have returned positive tests.
Comment has been sought from the Ministry of Health and quarantine officials. A statement is expected shortly.
Only one imported case of Covid-19 was announced at Tuesday’s 1pm media briefing. According to the Ministry of Health’s website there are 32 active cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
New Zealand’s deep-sea fishing industry, largely reliant on overseas workers, has been crippled by Covid travel restrictions that have left operators unable to crew their boats, costing tens of millions of dollars.
Since September, more than 100 fishermen have flown into the country, and up to 800 are expected under special government border exceptions for such crewmen – jobs that cannot be filled by Kiwis.
Sealord, Independent Fisheries and Maruha Nichiro chartered the flight that landed last week. The three companies are footing the bill for the cost of isolating the fishers.
New Zealand’s borders are closed to most people beyond citizens and residents to prevent the spread of Covid, though there are exceptions for some based on their need to travel, including economic reasons.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said foreign deep-sea fishing crew “contribute significantly to New Zealand’s economy”.
“The Government accepts that there are few additional Kiwis with the experience to safely work on these ships in the short term.”
In return, the industry has promised to remove barriers to employing New Zealanders.