Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus


As at mid-day on 12 August, Aotearoa New Zealand went to Alert Level 2 and Auckland City to Lockdown, Alert Level 3.  This, the result of four infections discovered in a South Auckland industrial area.

The source of reinfection in South Auckland  is yet to be determined. Options are limited to;

    • Border staff at airports, ports, or quarantine facilities unwittingly picking up the virus
    • An incorrect test result allowing a positive infection to leave a quarantine facility
    • “Lurking” asymptomatic community transmission left over from previous months
    • Returning flight crew member(s) acquiring the virus overseas

The third option  seems unlikely. Where there is asymptomatic infection there are also symptomatic cases where people end up in hospital and ICU care. It seems unfeasible for one to occur, but not the other;

The other hypothesis doing the rounds is that maybe New Zealand never eliminated the virus and that it has been bubbling away undetected in the community for three months.

Professor [Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of New South Wales] …thinks this is highly unlikely, and that at least some cases would have had symptoms and presented to medical authorities.

The last option is  the most disturbing. It is no secret that returning airline flight crews from foreign destinations are not required to quarantine for fourteen days, unlike other Returnees passing through our borders;


TDB Recommends


The assumption that the new outbreak may have been the result of returning international flight crews is a possibility we should not quickly dismiss.  To test this hypothesis, it is necessary to look at relevant facts.

Firstly, the genome of the covid19 virus in this latest outbreak does not match those who are infected and in current quarantine. As Prime Minister Ardern stated on 14 August,

“This suggests this is not a case of the virus being dormant or of a burning ember in our community. It appears to be new to New Zealand.

So we can rule out the second option above, and part of the first option. There is also no indication of incursion through a port, or an Americold worker have any association with a port worker.

Next: according to Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health, the genome of the virus indicates it may have originated from one of two countries;

“We are continuing with genome sequencing investigations. What we know so far is that there has been no exact link with a recent case in MIQ from the samples we have been able to genome sequence, however, genome sequencing of new cases resembles the genome pattern from the UK and Australia most closely.”

By contrast, genomic sequencing  points to the original appearance of the virus in late-February as having emanated from North America, not from Asia, Australia, or the UK.

Next: The facility where covid19 was first discovered is Americold NZ Ltd, situated at Mt Wellington. It is also the site where most of the cases have centred.

Suggestions that transmission occurred via importation of chilled/frozen goods between Australian and New Zealand Americold facilities were unequivocally dismissed by the company’s managing director, Richard Winnall;

Americold have investigated and we can completely rule out there is no transfer of product between these facilities in Australia or New Zealand,” Winnall told the Herald today.

We can completely rule out transmission through that speculation on freight. It’s just not possible because there is no freight or supply chain connecting those two properties [Mt Wellington and Melbourne].

In fact, for months and months [there has been no freight between Melbourne and Auckland]. I can’t tell you how long other than my Melbourne facility has confirmed they have no record of shipping to that Mt Wellington facility.”

Otago University professor and epidemiologist, Michael Baker, described the suggestion of viral contamination on imported goods as unlikely;

much less important than direct respiratory spread.

University of Otago professor of infectious diseases, David Murdoch, said;

I think on balance it’s probably less likely, but certainly worth exploring.

Epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Rachel Graham, pointed out;

“Even frozen, on a surface like that, you’ll see the virus desiccate and dry out, which renders it completely non-infectious.”

And executive director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, stated;

“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus, and people should feel comfortable and feel safe,” Ryan said in a press briefing on Thursday, adding, “people should not fear food, or food packaging or processing, and the delivery of food.”

Next: Mr Winnall made this salient point;

“We believe that was just two employees that contracted Covid-19 from outside the workplace, that happened to be employees of ours.”

This is where things get… “interesting” (but hopefully not in a Gerry Brownlee kind-of-way).

Americold also has a second facility, at Manu Tapu Drive, only a few kilometres from Auckland Airport;



One of the Americold workers tested works at the Manu Tapu Drive facility. The results of this person’s test remains unknown as at publication of this story. A Ministry of Health media release dated 13 August stated;

Two of the AmeriCold sites, Mount Wellington and Auckland Airport, have been closed, and all staff from the Airport site have now been tested.

That was three days ago, and the MoH website has no update as to the results of testing of staff at the Auckland Airport Americold site.

The first recorded Americold worker’s (not at the facility near the Airport) was on 31 July.

Working backward from 31 July, the first worker would have been infected roughly fourteen to sixteen days prior to presenting with symptoms. That takes into account approximately 12 to 14 days to incubate; one day presenting; and another day to test and determine a positive result.

The MoH website for covid cases yields the following result for Returnees flying home from Australia;



Recall that this strain of virus most likely emanated from UK or Australia.

Whilst the evidence above should be regarded as circumstantial, the possibility that an airline flight crew returning to Aotearoa New Zealand carried the covid19 virus and transmitted infection to an Americold staff-member should not be dismissed out of hand.

This country has already had one such instance of returning flight staff carrying the contagion across our borders into the community – with fatal results.

Equally alarming, is that flights from Australia and elsewhere continue to arrive to our country;


auckland airport arrivals


None of the flight crew staff are quarantined.


Meanwhile, the re-emergence of covid19 outside our quarantine facilities should squash further irrational proposals that we re-open our borders to others apart from returning New Zealanders;


covid19 nz


Key’s assertion that;

“We don’t really have a health crisis in New Zealand because we don’t have community transmission; we have a financial crisis that is coming, not a health crisis.”

– defies common sense and should be discarded as the misguided ‘reckons’ of a man with unbalanced priorities. People like Key, David Seymour, et al, should be regarded with derision if we value human life above money.





ABC News: New Zealand races to track down the source of the Auckland coronavirus outbreak

Stuff media: No quarantine rule for Air NZ international crew after new Covid cases

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Otago Daily Times:  Quarantine exemptions granted to small number

NZ Herald: Covid 19 Coronavirus – Air NZ crew and airport staff to be tested

Ministry of Health: 14 new cases of COVID-19 – Media release 13 August 2020

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

Stuff media: Coronavirus – New research reveals how Covid-19 came to New Zealand

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Two new cases at Americold factory; wait on results of 14 others continues

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Americold director can ‘completely rule out’ NZ’s virus cluster came from Melbourne facility

Stuff media: ‘We’re leaving no stone unturned’: Did New Zealand’s outbreak come from a Melbourne coolstore?

RNZ: Covid-19 – Imported goods as outbreak source an unlikely theory – Professor David Murdoch

Business Insider Australia:  Imported frozen foods may have caused New Zealand’s new coronavirus outbreak. But it’s very rare to get sick from such packages

Mediaworks/Newshub: Coronavirus – Gerry Brownlee denies COVID-19 questions make him a conspiracy theorist

NZ herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Two new cases at Americold factory; wait on results of 14 others continues

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown – Jacinda Ardern to announce next moves at 5.30pm tomorrow

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases details – 1:00 pm, 16 August 2020

Otago Daily Times:  Bluff groom’s father one of Covid-19 deaths

Auckland Airport: Arrivals

Mediaworks/Newshub: New Zealand must consider opening borders soon says Helen Clark, Peter Gluckman and Rob Fyfe

Stuff media: Relax border restrictions to soften Covid-19’s economic blow, Sir John Key says

TVNZ News: David Seymour says second Covid-19 lockdown not the answer and it’s time to ‘learn to live with it’

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National




cartoon murdoch

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch


This blogpost will be re-published in five days on “Frankly Speaking“. Reader’s comments may be left here (The Daily Blog) or there (Frankly Speaking).



= fs =


  1. Firstly anyone can just sail into NZ – with globalism and neoliberalism where money is more important than safety and we are still getting many people coming into NZ from countries where there is high levels of Covid and crime never stops.

    “A helicopter pilot and conman was able to enter New Zealand with his wife on a yacht without authorities knowing, before committing more than $400,000 worth of fraud.”

    “Sroubek, who is serving a jail sentence for importing drugs, has lodged an appeal to stay in New Zealand with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.

    Documents released under the Official Information Act show he arrived in the country twice but did not appear to depart in between.”

    For those still here, in the 21c it is surprising that the lefties still seem more interested in supporting people that don’t live in NZ for the most part and criminals coming here that seem to get the royal treatment, than those who work here and are constantly being subjugated by our poor employment laws, that are still not changed with a Labour/Green government.

    This was an issue, well before Covid struck and if the laws were put into NZ before Covid, there would be a lot less gig economy and working poor in NZ and companies just automatically laying off staff, then hiring other staff back on cheaper rates.

    New Zealand workers need mandated redundancy payouts

    Why being made redundant in NZ is so tough

    Smiths City advertises for new staff days after making 115 redundant

    Redundant pilot: Covid bungle ‘not ideal given what we’ve gone through’

    Redundant flight attendants finding work as strippers – report

    • In the age of the Internet, and sentencing able to be broadcast, allowing people to come into NZ during Covid (and no doubt more international good publicity about ‘kind face’) while putting those who already live in NZ at further risk of Covid should not be allowed. Safety and risk control is not important in NZ and we see it all the time with government decisions that are have many gaps. Then we will most likely have the issue of some refusing to leave NZ.

      Note this is not a trial where the victims might be needed to find him guilty, this isthe sentencing when Tarrent has already pleaded guilty.

      “Of the group, 28 were New Zealand citizens and 25 needed an exemption to enter the country, travelling from Australia, United Kingdom, Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Fiji, Egypt and Singapore.

      Ms Woods said they were happy to comply with the compulsory quarantine.

      “The list of countries … where some of the people coming from (show) that it is vitally important that we do have that 14 days of managed isolation, so that we can continue to keep COVID-free,” she said.

      “The feedback I’ve had from the the Muslim communities here in Christchurch is they want to make sure that COVID is kept out of New Zealand.”

      The group won’t pay for their quarantine as they arrived before the government’s charging regime kicked in.”

      Meanwhile not much help for the Muslim community in China from NZ government.

      The usual double standards with human rights in NZ.

  2. It’s a good blog and certainly a lot more realistic and plausible that the frozen chicken wings conspiracy coming out of Bloomfield & co.

    • Another non scientific and actually unintelligent rant against Bloomfield and co…

      As outlined elsewhere…


      • Well done bert
        This area of possible transmission of virus is not one that can be summarised with banal generalities. There are possibilities ruled out by some so called experts but shown to have validity that would need further forensic research.

      • “Top Chinese Epidemiologist”……let’s stop right there shall we. The beacon of truth in a post covid19 world. The same country that blamed the outbreak on the US military. Trump would be more convincing.

        Tell me how long does it take to test the surfaces at a cold store and find covid19? Wouldn’t have thought more than 1 day max. 1-day swab, 1-day test swabs.

        Chicken wings are on me, me ol’ mate Berty

        • Tell me how long does it take to test the surfaces at a cold store and find covid19? Wouldn’t have thought more than 1 day max. 1-day swab, 1-day test swabs.

          I can’t tell you Dr Frank, you are a Doctor right Frankie?

          • Feeling nervous there Berty?

            No i’m not a doctor however from experience if it looks like horseshit and smells like horseshit it is normally horseshit.

            Hipkins sounding more like squealer every day and unfortunately the public are starting to behave more like Benjamin and less like Clover.

            • “Feeling nervous there Berty?”
              What, why’s that Frankie?

              “if it looks like horseshit and smells like horseshit it is normally horseshit.”

              Sums up Brownlee and especially Woodhouse to a T.

        • Frank nearly all the countries that have had covid18 have cooperated and submitted the samples of covid19 to be analysed by international independent laboratories.
          There is one notable exception , the USA
          The US is busy blaming others including China but won’t release their samples yet the USA has the closest lineages that the Wuhan infection could have come from.
          The earliest covid19 virus found in China did not originate there and that is according to several independent laboratories outside of China.
          So if the USA ever releases their own early virus samples then the world will be a lot wiser.
          The USA has over 170 times the covid19 related deaths per capita than China.
          China has the expertise and disciplines to control the disease and has done so in very densely populated areas.

          20 Dec 2019 The unknown pneumonia was reported in China.
          Jan 1 2020 The Huanan Seafood selling market was closed.
          Jan 7 the virus had been isolated and by Jan 10 the genome had been shared with the world’s disease centres for research.

          But covid19 virus have been found in Europe samples dating earlier than October 2019.
          The USA had a cluster of cases with the identical symptoms earlier in 2019 but won’t release the data on those.
          So Frank how do you explain that a team of US military stayed in Wuhan and left hotel staff with covid19. That was before the virus was identified in China.

          The USA blames China with no evidence but if China presents evidence of US bringing in Covid19 then that’s not OK.

          China has the most experienced team in researching covid19, Their “top” researchers are well respected internationally in the scientific community.


          This information about the virus is widely known.

          You shift the focus by introducing surfaces at a cold store. That has nothing to do with a virus being transported in seafood or wet soft packing.

      • Bert: Another non scientific and actually unintelligent rant against Bloomfield and c

        Eh? Point out to us where Frank made a rant against Bloomfield? I missed it

        • “that the frozen chicken wings conspiracy coming out of Bloomfield & co.”

          A little bit of reading for you Mjolnir and your welcome.

      • Meanwhile other experts take this view Bert.

        Jin Dong-Yun, virology professor at the University of Hong Kong

        “Virus contraction via frozen food usually involves viruses such as the rotavirus and hepatitis A virus being transmitted through the gastrointestinal tract.

        “It typically happens with contaminated food consumption, which is not the route through which respiratory viruses infect people.

        “SARS-CoV-2 is not known to be transmitted via consumption of contaminated food.

        “It requires further investigation to determine whether a person can contract the coronavirus either by touching contaminated surface or via direct food consumption.”

        Eyal Leshem, Director of the Centre for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases, Sheba Medical Centre, Israel

        “There is no evidence of novel coronavirus transmission through food, food containers or food packaging. The vast majority of infections occur due to close contact with infectious patients.

        “Infection from fresh food like meat and fish may occur if a kitchen worker or waiter goes to work while ill and touches the food, thus transmitting the virus.

        “We think risk from frozen food is very low when proper food preparation guidelines are kept.”

        Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

        “A group from Hong Kong has shown that the survival of the virus is significantly altered by temperature and humidity.

        “It has said in a preliminary report that the virus can survive for only a day at 37C (98F), compared with a week at 22C (71F) and more than two weeks at 4C (39F).

        “The data relates to a solid inanimate surfaces, not meat.

        “I am a little sceptical that this outbreak in the market was actually related to a source thousands of miles away carried through the transport of food

        • Pedro there is a lot of speculation about the virus and its survival outside of the body. The range of speculation is very wide indeed. China has used vast resources in examining many routes of speculation and has established likelihood of the virus being transmitted through food handling and storage practices.

          To rule out information gleened from the most highly respected Chinese laboratories and expert authorities, seems foolhardy.

          Similarly the scientific opinion from independent laboratories outside of China must also be carefully examined.

          Beware falling into traps laid by political players.

      • ”Dr Bloomfield says it’s unlikely Covid was transmitted on chilled surfaces on material arriving from overseas, a full report on it is due later this week.” [rnz]

        Puts paid to that scenario eh Bert?

  3. Frank as usual this is a very well thought out article.

    We need to listen to what the Kiwi Scientist Professor Tony Blakely said to TVNZ anchor Jack Tame who interviewed Professor Tony Blakely a scientist at Melbourne University about how best could NZ fight the new outbreak of Covid 19 this last week.

    During the interview, Professor Blakely stated clearly that all who are in contact with our borders, including the Ports must be tested fully for present infections with the PCR (swab test) and if the infection was over two weeks ago, he recommends testing with the serology antibody test for finding any past infections after two weeks.

    Dr Blakely reminded Jack Tame that the PCR (Swab test) was not “perfect” and 20% failed to be accurate, showing false negative results after two weeks out from infection. This was Dr Blakely’s reason for recommending the serology antibody test as well was to have complete accurate results.
    Ministry of Health clearly should be doing this now or we risk the case that we do not have adequate data to understand ‘how and why’ the latest community Covid cluster has emerged this week, so they are concentrating at the cold store site where containers are transported by trucks,

    Q + A with Jack Tame – Melbourne-based epidemiologist says his city should have adopted New Zealand’s strategy of going harder and faster into lockdown.
    Sunday 16 Aug
    G Professor Tony Blakely says Melbourne should have immediately gone into a NZ-style level 3 lockdown to combat its second wave

  4. I f aircrew are still not required to isolate or quarantine as I heard on the radio weeks ago , then continual outbreaks would seem inevitable. It doesn’t seem possible that this could be so.
    The claim that there is no evidence of transmission via frozen food is not consistent with China’s experience where at least two outbreaks have indicated this source.Not proof perhaps but evidence.
    The inference from Americold that the only place it could have come from is Melbourne seems odd. They have covid in other places.
    D J S

    • From Dr Bloomfield: “He reminded the public that the food safety teams had reviewed evidence from around the world and concluded there was no evidence of transmission through contact with frozen goods and packaging.” (RNZ)

      So we can forget the “experts” from China

      Who knows who is pulling their strings

      The point that flight crews aren’t being tested is a real thing and we should be looking more closely at that. It’s obvious when you think deep and hard about it

      • “So we can forget the “experts” from China”
        The Chinese evidence has obviously been overlooked by the NZ food safety team.
        Are they Virologists and do we have Labs to conduct tests needed to verify the somewhat controversial conclusions.

        I well remember the Health Dept stating unequivocally at one stage that face masks were dangerous and increased risks of contagion.

        Information taken out of context can be very misleading.

        That appears to be very hard, or too complex, for some to understand.

        Is this a matter of convemience or

  5. Great effort @ Frank.
    So it’s all about money and human life is expendable if we lot get in the way of the cash flow.
    Therefore, extrapolating that, one could argue that the disciples of neoliberalism are in effect saboteurs and should be arrested under suspicion of manslaughter given the known deaths directly attributed to c-19 and the very real likelihood of that happening again and again on an ongoing basis ?
    So, where’s the law in that regard for continuing to encourage the likelihood to being exposed to a deadly pathogen within society in order to protect their money?
    If john key’s stating and I paraphrase; ” Never mind c-19. The real problem is the economy.”
    Isn’t that like shooting the victim of a mugging to save the victims wallet from the mugger?
    How is that legal? How is it legal for jonky being able to proffer the idea that money’s more important than the lives of us lot?
    jonky’s logic is exactly the opposite to what’s urgently required of our health and safety parameters.
    The thing that fucks me off, perhaps more than anything, is that jonky still has a voice where as we et al don’t.
    How is it that, that little rat still manages to get his squeak in when there are so many far more important voices to be heard?

    • jonkey is a banker and bankers control the money stream of billionares out of the public purse into the financial gamblers market.
      I wonder how many young women in the ANZ bank dare wear a ponytail.

  6. What I know is that there a lot of theories. What I know is that people pick and choose and spread the one or ones they like. Or make an amalgam of bits and pieces. Or just make up some new stuff.

    I know we are all right (meaning correct) because we have learned through life that we, personally, ourselves, know best.

    I know that the complexity of the actual virus seems to be such and the way it spreads, means the infinite opinions and theories can have infinite dimensions to them. Which is absolutely excellent for the rich fields it provides fantasists.

    One thing I can’t understand is how fragility, lack of confidence, and trust and fear is so endemic in some while a staggering blasé and ‘I’m untouchable’ and I don’t care about it at all attitude exists in others. Further than that there is the ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I’ll do whatever I like, I am not putting myself or anyone else at risk’ group.

  7. Glad this is happening under a leftish government. If the other side got in many would have been sacrificed for the economy.

    • Yep Z you are so right about that.
      Under National Governance the Public health and Environment is sacrificed for economic gain for the rich every time in our history.

      • You and Z seem so full of shit. What’s really improved in the last three years. Intentions don’t count. And by the way saying National would have sacrificed lives for money is unsubstantiated clap trap. You’re preaching to the converted here apart from a small minority who are constantly intrigued with your biased opinions.

    • Under national as outlined in your comment, the pandemic would have swamped NZ and pulled the economy down as well as an ongoing cost of lives and misery..
      The COL stance on covid19 has the best chance of economic recovery with borders locked.

  8. A coldstore worker in an overseas facility sneezes, the aerosol particles land on the polythene wrap & strapping of a pallet of frozen food. Pallet is shipped to Aotearoa where it is busted apart by a worker sorting the shipment out for various supermarkets. Then that kiwi coldstore worker absent mindedly wipes his glove across his face just under his nose. The virus enters his body & the chain of infection begins.

    For every expert who claims they believe the virus dies in coldstores there is another who has conducted experiments which prove that the virus thrives in sub zero temperatures. See here or here .

    One lot have investigated and demonstrated the result, the other lot are office or classroom bound academics making a statement that corporations concerned about the virus’ impact on global trade have urged him/her to make.
    The west has been held captive by corporate capitalism for far too long. Barely a decade ago thousands of doctors & medical academics willingly participated in the great pain scam where any patient with minimal pain was persuaded to take a course of morphine treatment. The result of that has been hundreds of thousands of dead americans – dead from OD or suicide, plus 40 or 50 extremely wealthy ‘new’ billionaires. See here & here
    No, not all experts lie but just like everyone else, their claims should be taken with a pinch of salt and objectively examined, the days of the disinterested scientist are long gone.

    • “Dr Bloomfield says it’s unlikely Covid was transmitted on chilled surfaces on material arriving from overseas, a full report on it is due later this week.” RNZ

      So much for that theory

      • Bloomberg has to look for the most likely paths of transmission. In stating at this point that it seems “Unlikely Covid was transmitted on chilled surfaces on material arriving from overseas” may well seem to be his best answer in the circumstances he gave it.

        Those circumstances are not outlined, nor details of the conversation from which the quote was plucked, but the quote does not state that covid was not present on a chilled surface, nor if frozen material was present nor what kind of surface was being excluded.

        A quote like that really means little particularly when there appears to be evidence that covid19 can survive frozen and at low temperature more readily that at moderate temperatures. Types of surfaces also feature in survival tests.

        • Regarding the (now unlikely) possibility of viral contamination via frozen/chilled goods:

          Americold’s managing director, Richard Winnall has stated that Melbourne has not made shipments from it’s Melbourne facility to Auckland.

          Far from taking his word for it, the validity of Mr Winnall’s statement can easily be determined by that most prosaic of human inventions – paperwork.

          A forensic examination of company records and Customs documentation would quickly determine if Mr Winnall was being truthful or not.

          I suspect MoH would have examined Customs and Americold’s records by now.

          • So nothing came directly from Melbourne, given that the sars 2 coronavirus can survive for weeks maybe months at -4° C , there is no direct regular freight route from Melbourne , but Victorian produce does travel here via Sydney & Brisbane to Aotearoa. In that case Winnall, a local boss of a particularly rapacious transnational corporation, isn’t lying if goods from the Melbourne coldstore came here via another city, but he is trying to deceive.

            Kinda the standard mode for huge corporations in 2020.

            Of course no one wants to admit that refrigerated storage is a possibility, the impact on world trade would be huge. Since this issue has been discussed on US & euro web sites the pushback from corp bots & their ‘retired journalist’ enablers, cum content providing publicists has been huge.

            There will be any easy way to tell. If a source for this virus is never discovered, if patient zero remains an americold cool store worker, the case will be proven.
            It is inconceivable that a covid 19 infected human whose rna dropping was enough to infect the americold workers would not have infected other kiwis and consequently not be tracked or traced.

            Capitalism will tell its lies & twist the truth, that behoves decent normal humans to be sceptical of their tosh.

  9. *** UPDATE ***

    From RNZ:

    Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

    19 August 2020

    Air New Zealand staff say there are a multitude of loopholes in the airline’s border controls – and Covid-19 testing and isolation requirements need urgent attention.

    The Health Minister today met with Air New Zealand to discuss ways to tighten Covid-19 restrictions, after saying he was concerned with their procedures.

    While returning travellers must undergo strict 14-day isolation requirements, the air crews bringing them home are largely exempt.

    One person working on Air New Zealand’s international flights told Checkpoint there had been unease for sometime among crews about the current rules, which mean only those returning from America are required to self-isolate, have a Covid-19 test on day two and continue to self-isolate until that test comes back negative.

    “I think there’s a multitude of loopholes, and some of them are due to the way the airline operates but also unfortunately, I believe that the loopholes and the vulnerabilities at the border, are due to the way things have been designed by Ministry of Health rules.”

    He recently returned from a long haul flight which was not to America, so he is not required to self isolate.

    “However, I’m doing that, because… it’s the right thing to do. So I am managing the quarantine at home.

    “But many crew have difficulty with that, they might have flatmates or they might have the situation so that they cannot physically isolate at home without putting people at risk.”

    He said it was vital there was a stand down period and testing between every international flight, especially because the burden was placed entirely on the crew themselves, and staff could fly home domestically to self isolate after completing a long-haul flight.

    “In my mind, every flight is similar risk and it’s regardless of how many days you’re over in those destinations – they all carry the same amount of risk and I don’t know why the Ministry of Health or Air New Zealand is able to justify having lower testing requirements for certain trips.”

    The Ministry of Health website states that because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from requirements for isolation if they meet certain conditions.

    They include wearing gloves and masks when in passenger areas and full PPE when dealing with a sick passenger suspected of having Covid-19.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said those requirements were agreed on by Air New Zealand and the Ministry of Health, but there was nothing to indicate air crews had been the source of any issues.

    Health Minister Chris Hipkins said he met with Air New Zealand this morning to discuss their testing protocols and they were working through those practicalities.

    The staffer told Checkpoint while Air New Zealand is doing the right thing most of the time, isolation and testing on every international flight has to happen.

    “They have a fiscal imperative, which is weighing very heavily on everyone and they would not want to have the extra cost of the stand down between every single flight and the testing. But it’s the only way to be [able] to have better surety protection from the virus getting back into our community.”

    Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said he was supportive of the government considering options for improvements to their current testing regime, and adds the protocols the airline currently has in place are proving to work, because there has not been a case of Covid-19 in the airline since early April.


    From NZ Herald:

    Covid 19 coronavirus: Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ concerns over airline crew coming through the border

    19 August 2020

    The Government admits it has concerns around the testing of airline crew coming through the border, amid claims from Winston Peters that a “second border breach” led to a hotel worker contracting the virus in central Auckland.

    Health Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning he was concerned about protocols for international airline crew, and the risk of the virus entering New Zealand.

    “I’m meeting with Air New Zealand today to make sure that that’s as tight as a drum,” Hipkins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking. “I’m not 100 per cent convinced that it is at the moment. I’m going to be absolutely boring into that. There’s no time for rest here. I’ve been doing this job for seven weeks. Every single day I’ve woken up thinking about Covid-19.”



    If there is one thing we have learned about this virus is that it is ‘tricky’ and that it will exploit any gap in our defences. The gap can be as small as… a virus.

    Air New Zealand is obviously concerned about it’s “bottom, line” and how quarantining will impact on it revenue and profits to shareholders.

    When it comes to shareholder returns vs the lives of my fellow New Zealanders, I’ll pick the latter Every. Single. Day.


  10. *** Further UP DATE ***

    Aug 20, 2020 1:25 PM
    RNZ Live
    The initial sampling shows that additional work at Americold is not currently warranted and it does appear that contamination of imported chilled packaging was not a likely source of infection at this point and therefore the investigation into finding the source remains open, Dr Bloomfield says.

    Aug 20, 2020 1:16 PM
    RNZ Live
    No virus has been found on any of the swabs taken from the Americold Wiri site. ESR did find very low levels of the virus on four of the 35 gauze swabs taken at the Mt Wellington site. Dr Bloomfield says the positive swabs were from surfaces expected to be touched by a person with the virus.


    So that’s that.

    The remaining options rely on human-to-human transmission.

    The question remains: who was the source of transmission for the Americold worker exhibiting symptoms on 31 July?

    • There is quite a gap between the worker being found to be infected and the Americold sampling. It would seem possible if not likely that Americold would cycle freight containers. packing and dump used materials that are not recycled or reused. If cleaning down with steam and hot water is used as is common in many chilled or frozen food handling sites, then what could be expected.

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