Cruise ship with Covid-19 cases failed to follow isolation rules

The cruise ship visiting Wellington yesterday, and Napier the day before, did not follow current Covid isolation guidelines.

By Kate Green for

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Te Whatu Ora said Royal Caribbean, the owner of the Ovation of the Seas vessel, today requested clarification on the rules.

Royal Caribbean previously released a statement saying the positive cases on board, numbering more than 130, would self-isolate in their cabin for five days, and only on days six and seven if they were still symptomatic.

The Department of Health said that from now on the ship, which docked in Picton this morning, would follow the country’s mandatory seven-day isolation rule.

The cruise liner carries nearly 5,000 passengers and 1,300 crew members, and all passengers over the age of 12 were required to be fully vaccinated.

“Positive cases on board should self-isolate in their cabin for 5 days and if still symptomatic on days six and seven,” the statement read.

“Those sharing cabins with Covid-positive guests must wear masks and perform rapid antigen tests daily.”

Commercial operators in Napier, where the ship first docked after leaving Tahiti, were not concerned about the prospect of Covid in the community.

Instead, they were content with the revival of their economy.

In Wellington, the Weta Cave saw 330 people pass through its doors on Tuesday – 200 more than last Tuesday – and 1,500 people rode the cable car, according to WellingtonNZ.

Michael Baker, professor of public health at the University of Otago Wellington, said cruise ships were “notorious” for infectious disease outbreaks, but “the environment has changed dramatically” since March 2020, when the country closed its borders.

Although he thought infections would “inevitably” be introduced into the community, he didn’t think it would lead to new strains or waves.

“We have over 10,000 people flying into New Zealand every day from all over the world so we are fully connected to all the diversity of Covid variants and sub-variants and it is a much faster way for them to get here rather than by cruise ship.”

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