EXCLUSIVE: Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

20
1413

.

air nz

.

An OIA response from Ministry of Health (see below, under “Addendum”) has fuelled speculation that Air NZ flight crew cannot be eliminated as the cause of the Auckland August covid-outbreak last year and the current February-Valentines Day outbreak. The sources for both outbreaks remain unknown and officially designated as “under investigation“.

The Auckland August covid-outbreak began on 11 August with four community cases detected. The first infected person – a worker at Mt Wellington Americold – became symptomatic on 31 July.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Wanaka-based phylogeneticist, Dr James Hadfield, pointed out;

Finding a recent case in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) or elsewhere on the border that matched this cluster lineage would be strong evidence for the border incursion scenario. We haven’t got any such direct evidence – but this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

[…]

Extensive testing and contact tracing determined the earliest case found to date was an Americold coolstore worker who first showed symptoms on July 31, and the initial spread of the cluster centred around this coolstore, which imports frozen goods.

Thus, the third hypothesis is that the virus may have been imported on packaging material, where it could have survived in low temperature conditions, and then gone on to infect a worker at the coolstore.

This hypothesis is given further credence by the possible genomic link to Ecuador, since viral particles have been found in China on frozen shrimp packaging from Ecuador.

However, no shipments from Ecuador were received by the coolstore in question.

Coincidentally (?) there is also a branch of the company – Americold Logistics –  in Māngere.

Americold Logistics in Māngere is 1.7km* drive from Auckland International Airport.

In the case of the February-Valentines Day outbreak, Case B involved a worker fromLSG Sky Chefs in Māngere who worked at the laundry facility. Health officials believe she was the first to be infected but developed symptoms after her daughter and then got tested. She had not been at work since 5 February and how she became infected remains unknown. All members of staff at her place of work return negative Covid-19 testing results“.

LSG Skychefs Māngere is a 1.8km* drive from Auckland International Airport.

On 24 February – in a story titled Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline – this blogger mapped LSG Sky Chefs, Americold Logistics, and Auckland International Airport;

.

possible covid links

 

.

However, there was a missing piece: the location of a hotel used by Air NZ as an isolation facility for flight crews returning from international routes. Enquiries to Air NZ and elsewhere were met with a wall of silence. Flight crew’s safety and privacy were often quoted. (Though this does not feature as a concern for other Returnees and migrant essential workers staying at publicly-listed MIQ facilities, including a MoH webpage.)

Aside from the publicly revealed isolation facilities at Grand Windsor in down Auckland’s Queen Street and Ramada Hotels at Auckland CBD and Manukau – the location of an up-till-now secret facility in Māngere was a secret.

However, in a response to an OIA request from this blogger, it can be revealed that the heretofore un-named facility is/was the Heartland Hotel at 14 Airpark Drive, Māngere;

It is unclear if Heartland Hotel is still being used by Air NZ.

On 9 February, former Newshub and RNZ journalist, Zac Fleming discovered that Air NZ flight crews had been leaving their isolation facilities at Ramada Hotel at Auckland CBD and Manukau, and the Grand Windsor on Auckland’s Queen Street, to exercise regularly out in the streets.

It is highly probable that flight crews would also have done the same when in “isolation” at Heartland Hotel in Māngere.

In an Air NZ staff bulletin to crew, it was stated that Ministry of Health guidelines permitted outside exercise activity “… for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day.”  This was confirmed in an online MoH web-document dated 24 December 2020;

Aircrew are only permitted to leave their place of self-isolation:

[…]

to do any outdoor exercise

Flight crews were not held in MIQ for fourteen days. Rather, they were held in isolation for 48 hours and allowed back into the community after just one negative covid test.

Though as University of Otago Medical School epidemiologist, Sir David Skegg, warned;

Of course a single negative test does not prove that a person is not infected, especially early in the course of their illness.”

Mapping all four facilities, LSG Sky Chefs, Americold Logistics,  Auckland International Airport, and Heartland Hotel;

.

possible covids links

 

.

Heartland Hotel, at 14 Airpark Drive, Māngere, is 3.5kms* from Auckland International Airport.

As this blogger suggested on 24 February – The close proximity of Americold to Auckland International Airport could be considered a coincidence.

But add LSG Skychefs to Americold and the International Airport – and there’s a pattern.

The close proximity of Heartland Hotel is one of the final two missing pieces;

Missing Piece 1: Is/was there a second Air New Zealand Isolation facility  within the LSG Skychefs – Americold – Auckland International Airport precinct? What was it’s location? And if it did exist; did isolating Air NZ flight crew members take their exercise outside the facility “as per the MoH guidelines you will be able to leave the hotel for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day”?

Missing Piece 2: Did an employee from Americold Mt Wellington (where covid infections were detected) have direct contact with the Māngere Branch, thereby placing themself at “Ground Zero”?

This blogger contends that a cascading series of events has resulted in returning Air NZ flight crew(s) initiating both the August Auckland and Valentines Day outbreaks:

  1. Air NZ flight crews isolate for only 48 hours instead of two weeks, even though they are returning from high-risk destinations such as Los Angeles, Asia, etc.
  2. Until recently, returned Air NZ flight crews were permitted to leave isolation to exercise (ie; jogging, walking, etc) out on the streets. A jog by an “isolating” flight crew member around Māngere is not only conceivable but likely.
  3. Air NZ flight crews are permitted to leave isolation after 48 hours after one negative covid test – despite common knowledge that false negatives are common.
  4. Air NZ management have cut flight staff, thereby putting pressure on remaining employees to isolate for only two days, as well as being forced to work shifts on “quarantine flights”.

There has been mounting pressure on this government for South Aucklanders (Manukau, Māngere, etc)  to be given priority for vaccination;

.

why?

.

– but no one has asked the obvious question: Why is it necessary to vaccinate South Aucklanders first?

What has made South Auckland a target-zone for new covid outbreaks?

As an observant ‘Daily Blog’ reader pointed out; these outbreaks do not seem to be happening in Wellington, Rotorua, or Christchurch, where MIQ facilities also exist (but not Air NZ isolation facilities);

.

pennywise - air new zealand - covid19

.

Genomic sequencing has eliminated MIQ facilities as being the source for the two recent outbreaks.

Yet, the virus had to enter Aotearoa New Zealand by some means. It didn’t arrive here by ‘spontaneous creation’.

Which leaves our national air carrier. And as this map shows;

.

four facilities - a coincidence?

.

– it cannot be a coincidence that all areas of interest are in close proximity.

Air NZ is allowed to operate because it is considered a critical infrastructure-service. It has less stringent isolation/quarantine requirements than any other regime operating. As the Ministry of Health explicitly outlined why Air NZ receives preferential treatment;

Because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from a 14 day isolation or quarantine period as long as they meet certain conditions – both in flight and during layovers…

It would also explain why the Ministry of Health refused point-blank to disclose answers to these two questions I put to them;

1. How many flight crew personnel have contracted covid19?
 
2. Are any flight crews currently infected by covid?

 

Their response;

“This part of your request is withheld under section 9(2)(b)(ii) as the release of this information would likely unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person or company who supplied the information.”

– makes no sense. It is unclear how crew infection rates could “unreasonably prejudice the commercial position”  of Air NZ.

But it makes total sense if the number of returning flight crews showing covid infections has increased significantly. That is not information which Air NZ management or the majority-shareholder – the government – would want in the public domain.

Especially if – as it seems likely – some returning infected flight crews were either not fully isolating (going out for exercises, jogging, walks, etc) – or their negative test results are worthless.

The sooner all Air NZ flight crews are vaccinated, the better for the entire country.

Because what other transmission routes could there be except Air New Zealand.

.

* Distances calculated via Google Maps

.

Postscript:

.

New case of Covid-19 found in airline crew member

7.44PM, 7 March 2021, RNZ

A new case of Covid-19 has been identified in an airline crew member during routine surveillance testing

In a statement this evening, the Ministry of Health said the crew member had returned to New Zealand from Japan on 28 February and had initially returned a negative test result [my emphasis].

The person has since returned a positive test result today, after a swab taken yesterday during routine surveillance testing.

They have moved into Auckland’s quarantine facility today.

The individual’s three household family members have already been tested today and the results are all negative.

Fourteen other air crew who were on the same flight are being contacted, isolated and retested.

The MoH said a public health assessment showed there was low risk to the public, as Auckland was at alert level three during the time the case was back in New Zealand.

There is currently one location of interest – the Auckland Airport Countdown on 3 March between 12.07pm and 1.22pm.

Anyone who was at the store at the same time has been asked to monitor their health for the next ten days and get tested if symptoms arise.

Results from genome sequencing are expected on Tuesday and will help rule out any local transmission.

The new case comes after New Zealand marked a full week with no community cases, following an outbreak in South Auckland.

Auckland moved out of alert level three at 6am today and is currently operating under alert level two.

.

Let’s do the sums:

Returned to Aotearoa New Zealand: 28 February

Covid tested & result: negative

Released after MoH mandated 48 hours in Isolation: 2 March

Visited: 3 March, Auckland Airport Countdown between 12.07pm and 1.22pm

Re-tested: 6 March

Covid test result: 7 March: positive

That’s five days out in the public, including a busy supermarket.

Covid testing picked up this case. How many did we miss?

.

Addendum:

Ministry of Health OIA Response in full:

.

oia response to ministry of health

.

.

.

References

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Why we may never know where Auckland cluster originated

Newsroom: Mapping the Valentine’s Day cluster, case by case

MoH: COVID-19 – Source of cases – Cluster details

RNZ: Covid-19 – New cases push New Zealand into resurgence plan

NZ Herald: Coronavirus Covid 19 – The three theories for August’s Auckland outbreak

RNZ: Covid-19 February cluster – Case profiles

Stuff media: Covid-19 – A guide to managed isolation hotels, and what to do if things go wrong

MIQ:  Facility locations

Newshub: Coronavirus – Air NZ crews allowed to leave quarantine for exercise in Auckland CBD

MoH: Requirements for aircrew ordinarily resident in New Zealand to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission

Newsroom: Questions raised over international aircrew rules

ODT: Air NZ crews hoping to stall redundancies

Newshub: Air New Zealand crew claim they’re being ‘forced’ to work on COVID-19 quarantine flights

MoH: COVID-19 – Aviation sector

RNZ: Phil Goff pushes for south Auckland priority in Covid-19 vaccine roll-out

RNZ: Pressure mounts to prioritise vaccines for South Auckland

Stuff media: Vaccinate south Auckland first – you just can’t argue with this truly good idea

TVNZ News: Prioritising Covid vaccine for South Aucklanders will ‘protect the whole of NZ’ – Pasifika medical official

The Daily Blog: Pennywise

MoH: COVID-19 – Aviation sector

RNZ: New case of Covid-19 found in airline crew member

Additional

The Spinoff: The ultimate guide to New Zealand quarantine and managed isolation hotels

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

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

Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline

.

.

.

Air NZ - the daily blog - Slane - cartoon

Acknowledgement: Chris Slane

.

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 =

20 COMMENTS

  1. Deny, withhold, obfuscate, censor, lie.

    The normal responses of politicians and bureaucrats to being caught out.

    • Absolutely!
      Unfortunately atm – that’s ‘at the moment’, (in this space going forward), @ Frank is probably uphill. shit. pushing. A messy business at the best of times.
      Because there is “complete and utter faith in ‘officials'”.
      ( Even the ones that have the management skills of muppet auditioning for a role in ‘The Office’; or the ones that get promoted after devising demographic profiling, and who really really ain’t Ray Shist because some of their best frenz are brown and even have a bit of a taint of the charcoal. )

      “Deny, withhold, obfuscate, censor, lie” – and it’s not even that overt because its become standard operating procedure and its so embedded in the psyche that a good many of them actually believe it religiously.
      It’s standard practice and it serves them quite well most often. Unfortunately the political class don’t seem to be equipped with the bullshit detectors they need, or they flip between being erected representatives and the administration (and sometimes back again)
      The self, ego, blind ambition.. Let ’em go for it I reckon. The quicker their inevitable demise one way or another

    • Well reasoned and expressed Frank.

      No serious investigative journalism visits this arena in the MSM.
      We get crap forced upon us from Reuters, both in print, from RNZ and TV.
      Thus demonstrating a control beyond Kiwi hands of what we are “allowed” to know.

      TDB is often a great help with your well researched blogs giving balance upon evidence available.

  2. Bravo Frank!
    You have put the media to shame with your obvious research and observational skills, and ability to make connections.

    Technically, a coincidence is an occurrence of events that happen at the same time by total accident. Let Air NZ, Govt. agencies and authorities involved in dealing with COVID, disprove your conclusion; “what other transmission routes could there be except Air New Zealand”…

  3. WOW! -The seriousness of this detailed analysis cannot be overstated and, if for no other reason than to lift the cloud of insinuation that hangs over the people of South Auckland, must be immediately addressed at the highest level. And if, in fact, the Covid-risk management of Air New Zealand personnel puts them outside the team of five million, with all its implications, we need to, at least, know about it.

  4. Why are positive Covid cases still coming into NZ??? Clearly something is going wrong.

    AKA the Ministry said the five cases detected in managed isolation on Monday all arrived on March 6 and had travelled from India and Brazil.

    Nobody should be able to come back into NZ unless they are vaccinated. They should also be tested by independent agencies before they come and temperature taken before they board.

    • And even if they have been vaccinated – allegedly – they should stiil have to provide verifiable proof and do the quarantine.

    • And even if they have been vaccinated – allegedly – they should stiil have to provide verifiable proof and do the quarantine.

  5. This is a nice piece of amateur, but nevertheless compelling, epidemiology. As you say, the key info of the genomic sequence of this latest case will be, when it comes out, a datum of very great interest.

  6. Thanks for comments, everyone. I may not always be able to respond (just got home half an hour ago; fed cat; watered plants… hope I got that in the right order…)

    One “datum of very great interest” (as Tom put it) will be to see where the next outbreak occurs.

    If it’s in South Auckland (again), or around any other Air NZ isolation facility, then Air NZ has some hard questions to answer.

    • Here is a REALLY HARD question for Air New Zealand to answer:

      Bearing in mind that the Earth is in the process of being rendered largely* (or completely) uninhabitable for humans, and bearing in mind that this is due to excessive use of fossil fuels, and bearing in mind that flying an aircraft is one of the fastest ways per capita of converting fossil fuel into carbon dioxide, why are you [Air New Zealand} flying planes at all?

      ‘Global heating pushes tropical regions towards limits of human livability

      Rising heat and humidity threatening to plunge much of the world’s population into potentially lethal conditions, study finds’

      https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/mar/08/global-heating-tropical-regions-human-livability

      Could it be that Air New Zealand executives value money more than they value life?

      We already know the answer, of course.

      And the same philosophy apples to the Adern government, which values money more than it values life.

      Times are about to get ‘really interesting’, now that Ponzi global finance is on its knees and the ‘tsunami’ is thundering up the beach:

      https://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar21/deflationary-tsunami3-21.html

      • NZ needs leadership and better control of MSM to educate the public, counter the capitalist champions of BAU in every sense, and move towards structuring our way of life, towns and community planning. The national infrastructure must move quickly towards a cleaner and environmentally less destructive development now. Tomorrow is based on today.
        Fossil fuels we know are out completely as are over fishing, clearing wilderness and eating animal products. Use of fertiliser and large commercial scale cropping are out but welcome in small holding regenerative horticulture using well established permaculture pioneers within NZ as leaders and educators.

        Consider this carefully.
        https://www.0beef.com/regenerative-farming-methods

        The country that has the largest accumulated historical carbon emission footprint per capita is the USA being 26 times greater than China. China’s present GHG emissions while manufacturing good for the world, is one sixths per capita to that of the USA.
        The USA is the worlds biggest problem on that matter as well as many others which we blithely ignore..
        The USA will soon run into a fundamental crisis as their millennia old aquifers are reaching depletion through over use.
        China’s water sources are different with the Himalayas feeding large rivers but pollution of the main river will take much resources to resolve.
        India has poor distribution and capture of water. Monsoon rains and flooding limit horticulture but small family farms have adapted to this prior to climate change.
        Just too many people needing to be fed will result in starvation, lower life expectancy and a radical break down of present lifestyles and community structures.
        Only China has set out to limit its population with a peak predicted about 2023, six years earlier than officially predicted at about 1.44 billion.

        India is very fragmented with population awareness but various analyses look to population peak around 2047 with 1.66 billion, well beyond in time of any trustworthy prediction of a wider global collapse. India’ rural economy will be hit hard with climate changes long before then.
        The message is being ignored by most Kiwis who are fed crap through MSM. Also many just don’t want to know feeding into the hands of investors for profit now, Business NZ propaganda and ignoring dire warnings of Kiwi scientists.

    • Shelly
      Your hope may be widely held but being realistic is also important to controlling the future of a pandemic spread globally and with an increasing incidence of identified mutations. No doubt many mutation will not be identified in a short term.

      Inoculation may change the incidence of Covid19 like cases but there is still a lot to be learned about the inoculations and what we can expect from the. Certainly we will not be free of Covid19 even with widespread inoculations repeated after their effects wane after a short period it seems.
      Overseas pockets will continue to seed contagion in NZ so the chances of Covid19 going away are slim or impossible for many years ahead. Herd immunity is a concept that does not translate easily to covid19.
      Our borders will have to remain our protection unless you are prepared to have a rising death rate among the vulnerable just for the sake of business profits. Business and our new way of life will have to adapt which will meat with corporate investor resistance.
      I vote it will all go away and it will if I become another historic statistic

      Someone said something about eternal vigilance.

  7. Excellently researched and logically explained. The reckless Air NZ cabin crew isolation makes a mockery of the science around sars covid 2 border control. Thanks again Frank.

  8. Well, well, here it comes:

    ‘the aviation industry urgently needed to be forced to reduce its emissions and that there was “no going back” to tourism as it was pre-Covid. Porritt said air travel was a privilege, not a right.

    “Controversial though it may be, I’m in favour of putting off some people coming to New Zealand. I just don’t believe in the idea that the number of international visitors to New Zealand can grow and grow and grow without limits. I just don’t believe that is credible [or] right. So, if a higher price for the privilege of flying to New Zealand puts some people off, good.”

    Regina Scheyvens, a professor in development studies at Massey University, welcomed Porritt’s comments and said it was “promising” that Upton’s proposed departure tax was to be discussed by the airline.

    “We can talk all we like about carrots or incentives for the aviation industry to change, but we keep also hearing that aviation wants to get back to business as usual in many parts of the world – we just can’t afford to do that because the environmental and human costs are too high.”

    ‘Charge more for flights to deter tourists and help the planet, says Air New Zealand adviser
    Sir Jonathan Porritt says there is ‘no going back’ to tourism as it was pre-Covid and that flying is a privilege not a right’

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/09/charge-more-for-flights-to-deter-tourists-and-help-the-planet-says-air-nz-adviser

    Someone had better tell the idiot we have for Minister of Tourism.

    • Bruce. Good link.
      Charging more for flights won’t prevent harm to the biospheres caused by those flights. It may limit flights to a below covid19 level but the thinking is very shallow and follows the BAU but with slight restrictions. Not a waste of time but alone a waste of direction of thinking.
      The West coast of the greater North America is seeing an increase in shipping of goods by sail. It appears an increasing number of merchants want to see their good coupled with better environmental practices.
      There is non of that thinking in the Air New Zealand thinking. Diversify from Air Travel is more to the point.
      Adjusting our economy so it is not reliant on tourism and accommodating a reduction of internal flights can be done and is not a new idea as the NZ economy ran a long time without air travel. Not realistic? The destruction of the planet for habitation is not a realistic economic path.
      We see no sign of movement away from tourist based economics except that which is forced. Si be it. Force it on environmental grounds as their are no grounds that are more profound and if avoided most likely will be terminal.
      Growth? What fools use that as a reason for BAU. The ponzi Fiscal industry has to collapse because growth it depends on cannot be sustained. The sooner it collapses then the better the chance for some to survive a while longer with a revised community based economy, probably around cooperatives with much fewer parasite taking money produced by Kiwi labour, and giving it to “Offshore Investors” Growth is being “taxed more by bankers and investors”
      NZ can create its own money at no cost to society and that was shown clearly during the 1930s in NZ.

Comments are closed.