Two crew members on board a container ship anchored off Queensland's Sunshine Coast have been evacuated to a mainland hospital after being diagnosed with a strain of Covid-19 not yet seen in Australia.
Health authorities in New Zealand say it's likely that a Kiwi engineer caught the virus after working the same ship last week and testing positive on Saturday.
"Positive test results from crew members on board the Sofrana Surville support the hypothesis that the port worker reported by the Ministry of Health on Sunday could have been infected while working on board," the ministry said in a statement.
The hospitalised sailors will be recorded as two new cases in the state's virus count because they are now in the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
A third member of the crew had previously recovered from the virus.
All 19 crew members on board the Sofrana Surville were tested on Wednesday off the coast of Mooloolaba after they were stopped from docking at Brisbane.
It was originally reported the Kiwi engineer had tested positive to a strain of the virus not seen in New Zealand or Australia before.
New Zealand has asked Queensland to run genomic sequencing tests to determine whether the cases were linked to the case of new strain.
"That can take up to a week, but we'll do the work asked by the New Zealand Government," Health Minister Steven Miles said.
"An engineer who worked on this vessel and another has tested positive … it is a strain they haven't seen in New Zealand before," general manager of Maritime Safety Queensland, Angus Mitchell told ABC radio on Wednesday.
"They are still trying to work out where he got it from, but either of the two international visiting ships are an obvious place."
Meanwhile, the owner of a popular local pub in New Zealand's latest Covid-19 hotspot has been forced to close the doors for 14 days after an infected patron spent more than three hours there last Friday night.
Kevin McVicar, who runs The Malt in the North Shore suburb of Greenhithe, has been told by the Ministry of Health that his staff have to self-isolate for 14 days since the infected patron's visit.
Health chief Ashley Bloomfield said the man was not likely to have been infectious when he was at the pub between 7.30pm and 10.30pm as he had only been exposed to the virus that morning.
Health officials are investigating whether the man who visited The Malt was infected while in the same office as the first case in the cluster, the marine electronics engineer.
- Additional reporting, NZ Herald