Tauranga COVID alarm reinforces need to stay on guard

The Maritime Union says a COVID alarm aboard a vessel in the Port of Tauranga is a reminder that strict processes at ports are essential to protect New Zealand from exposure.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the incident aboard the Rio de la Plata on Wednesday 4 August did not directly affect Maritime Union members.

Work had been stopped on the ship and workers were sent home to isolate, but later the ship was given the all clear for work to resume.

He says there had been some confusion about the status of the vessel and its crew, and communication may have to be improved, but any false alarms were preferable to exposure to COVID.

Mr Harrison says it is important that stevedores and port companies continue to ensure strict protocols are followed and PPE gear is used, as this had been successful so far.

He says the Maritime Union wants to see more proactive measures including public health staff visiting ports and having conversations with workers about the importance of vaccination.

Mr Harrison says an issue that is not being addressed is improved testing and vaccination of overseas crews visiting ports, which was not happening.

Vaccination of crews was a weak point in international efforts to control COVID and this was where attention needed to be focussed, he says.

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