New Zealand has 25 more cases of Covid-19 today, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has revealed.
Two of them are community cases linked to the port worker who tested positive over the weekend, while the rest are imported cases including 18 foreign fishermen from Russia or the Ukraine.
But there was no reason to change alert levels, Bloomfield said, because the community cases appear to be well contained, with the source of infection likely known, while the imported cases were all contained in quarantine facilities.
One of the community cases was previously considered a casual contact of the port worker and worked in the same small firm. Bloomfield said they spent
a few minutes in the same room on Friday morning. They had been tested on Sunday and returned a negative result, but had symptoms yesterday and then tested positive.
The second workplace case came back positive this morning, Bloomfield said, having previously tested negative but who was re-tested following the emergence of symptoms yesterday.
He was a previously-reported workplace close contact of the port worker, and they have been in quarantine at the Jet Park since Sunday. His close contacts are in isolation and are being tested.
Asked how unusual it would be for the casual contact to become infected after such a short amount of interaction on Friday morning with the port worker, Bloomfield said it was possible that the worker's close contact had infected the casual contact.
Further interviews are under way with both new community cases, he said.
There was little concern around further community spread because the company they worked in was small, and their only interaction with port workers were with security and with people who were working on the ship.
Bloomfield said a move to level 2 might have been warranted had there been more cases or if the source had been a mystery.
The Sofrana Surville ship, now in Brisbane, remains the most likely source of infection. No test results from those on the ship are available yet.
The Sofrana travelled from Brisbane to Tauranga and then to Auckland, where eight crew joined it from the Philippines. They had flown into New Zealand and were released from managed isolation on October 13.
The port worker worked on the ship on October 12 and 13.
There are 19 crew members on the ship and testing is expected to be available later today. Any positive test is likely to be genomically sequenced to see if they are linked to the port worker's infection.
Three Port Taranaki staff members who possibly came in contact with the man have all returned negative test results.
"We are extremely pleased for these staff members and our wider staff and port users," Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said.
There are 18 cases in the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch among Russian and Ukrainian fishing crews.
They are part of the 237 crew who arrived on a flight from Moscow and landed in Christchurch last week.
Bloomfield said he would be surprised if there weren't more cases among the crews, but they were contained in the Sudima.
All were tested via nasal swab pre-departure, and Bloomfield said two people didn't fly out because they had tested positive.
Foreign fishing crews were meant to be self-isolating for 14 days, but there was no way to verify that.
"At least one person" must have been infectious on the flight, Bloomfield said, and others could have become infected on the flight of shortly thereafter.
"Pre-departure testing may add value but it won't change anything we do at this end," he said.
Asked if so many infections strained the credibility over whether the pre-departure measures were done, he said it reinforced the need for the border controls in New Zealand.
Those who have tested positive are now in a dedicated quarantine wing in the Sudima. Many are in twin rooms and Bloomfield said moving them into single rooms was being looked at.
Extra layers of defence had been agreed to with fishing companies, including the self-isolation and negative test before departure, the chartered flight and the single quarantine facility for them on arrival.
"We are adding an additional day six testing for all those people, and that will happen tomorrow," Bloomfield said.
"This group may need to stay beyond the 14 days."
Russia has had one of the largest outbreaks in the world, but Bloomfield said people were coming from other countries, including the US, where there had been a lot of Covid-19.
"We treat everyone the same."
All staff at the Sudima have been tested, and their families will also have access to testing, as will the bus company that took the workers to the Sudima and airport staff in Christchurch.
Tighter restrictions for the next arrival of foreign fishing crew would be looked at, he said.
He was not aware of foreign fishing crew in any other managed isolation facility in New Zealand.
Sealord chief executive Doug Paulin said earlier the workers would have spent a period in isolation in their home country before boarding the plane. They also had to test negative within three days of flying.
"We've got some fishers that weren't showing symptoms and tested negative, but have since tested positive," he told Newstalk ZB.
He had yet to be notified if any of the workers who had tested positive were Sealord's workers.
Paulin said it was "fantastic" that the Government had set up such stringent border control measures.
Last month the Government announced border exceptions for foreign workers, including 30 veterinarians, 570 deep-sea fishing crew, and 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators.
Shortages in deep-sea fishing workers could not be filled by Kiwis in the short-term, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said at the time.
"In exchange for the border exception, the fishing industry has committed to removing barriers to employing New Zealanders, including reviewing pay structures and business models, and investing significantly in training and education."
This morning a spokesman for Faafoi said there were no plans to change the border exception scheme.
Paulin said the fishing vessels had 100 per cent foreign crew and it had been that way for 25 years.
There were still 30 to 40 vacancies on the vessels with New Zealand crew "despite advertising up and down New Zealand".
He said young Kiwis were not inclined to do "more labour-intensive roles", and a life at sea was "not for everyone".
Five unrelated community cases
Bloomfield said three unrelated imported cases flew in from London and tested positive on routine day three testing.
Two more imported cases - flying in from Jordan and Malaysia - were in managed isolation in Auckland; both tested positive on a day three test. They will both be transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility.
There are now 56 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
Yesterday 6308 tests were processed.
Bloomfield said the need for a test if symptomatic was reinforced by the port worker who became symptomatic on Friday, as well as one of his contacts who became symptomatic yesterday.
"Putting our cases today in perspective, yesterday Spain announced around 48,000 new cases, and that would be the equivalent in New Zealand of around 4000 new cases.
"We have a significant pandemic. All that matters is what we do now and what we do next. We are not being complacent at the border and all New Zealanders need to make sure they are not complacent in the community."
The port worker who tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend also worked on the Ken Rei ship.
Director of public health Caroline McElnay said the crew members were still receiving daily symptom checks, though they were not considered the source of infection. All were symptom-free.
Napier Port has decided today the ship Ken Rei, which has 21 crew members onboard, should remain offshore for a 14-day isolation period.
A letter of advice from the Ministry of Health claims the vessel can safely berth at any New Zealand port while following Covid 19 guidelines.
But Napier Port says the best precaution for its community is to keep the Ken Rei anchored offshore until October 28.
They will assess the circumstances of the vessel at that time.
Meanwhile, a New Zealand-based ship with a New Zealand-based crew was to be tested by Kiwi officials today.
But the vessel, the Moana Chief, was considered unlikely to be the source of infection.
It was moving from Marsden Pt to Tauranga yesterday.