New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has announced that all but seven of the international mariners from Russia and the Ukraine have left managed isolation and quarantine to join their fishing vessels.
The group of 235 arrived in the country on 16 October on a charter flight from Moscow and have since been in a dedicated quarantine facility at the Sudima Christchurch Airport hotel. They all had their 14-day stay in managed isolation extended by more than a week.
Those that have been cleared were due to have a final health check before their planned departure for their fishing vessels yesterday (Saturday).
Remaining seven are being monitored
“Thirty-one of the group tested positive during their stay and were transferred to quarantine. Of these 24 have recovered and are cleared to leave,” the ministry said.
“The remaining seven [sailors] continue to be monitored and will be required to meet the recovered case definition and receive a final health check before leaving managed isolation and quarantine.”
As reported earlier by the ministry, two health staff working at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19. But a spokesperson said all other staff at the Sudima Christchurch Airport have now been tested and returned negative results.
Crews are going straight to their vessels
Health services were confident that there has been no exposure of any of the crew by these two cases, the spokesperson said.
On leaving isolation, the group, many of whom are replacing international crew due to return to their home country, will go straight to the NZ fishing vessels they are assigned to.
Of the group, a number are skilled maintenance workers in the country to carry out work on deep sea trawlers. While they undertake this work over the next six weeks they will live on board the vessel and, once complete, they will leave New Zealand.
“The fishing crew will also live on the vessels post release from the managed isolation and quarantine,” the Ministry of Health stated. “Their employers wish the crew to isolate on board for a further week and shore leave will be restricted until all crew are tested and achieve a negative COVID-19 test.”
Special immigration exemption for crews
In September the New Zealand Cabinet decided to allow foreign fishing crews to enter the country under a special exemption as NZ-flagged fishing vessels were lying idle due to a lack of locally based crew.
At the time Seafood New Zealand called the problem “significant” and said the industry stood to lose around NZ$725-million annually.
“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,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said.