An Auckland Airport worker who has tested positive for Covid-19 cleans planes from high-risk “red-zone countries”, and had been fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
The Ministry of Health reported in a statement this afternoon that the person tested positive. It said there was also one historical case.
Speaking more than an hour later, Ardern said the border worker cleaned planes that had come from places with high numbers of Covid-19 cases and carrying people with the coronavirus.
“A very clear link at this stage to cases that are high risk,” she said.
“The reason this person was part of our surveillance testing was because they were working in an area we consider to be high risk. They are coming in contact with the planes that are carrying passengers from high-risk countries and so that is a place where our workers, they are in the kinds of roles that means they need to be tested, they need to be vaccinated, but they also need to be thanked for the jobs that they do because of the risk that it carries.”
They were fully vaccinated early on in the campaign and were last tested on 12 and 19 April, she said. Yesterday’s test returned a positive result today.
In a statement this evening, the ministry said 16 close contacts of the airport worker had been identified so far.
The ministry said Auckland Airport was the person’s sole employer, and their role was non-public-facing.
The airport worker was fully vaccinated
Ardern said people can still get Covid-19 after being vaccinated, but it would make them a lot less sick than otherwise. The Pfizer vaccine which is being used in New Zealand provides about 95 percent protection against the virus.
“So, in this case, it is working as intended. This is not a worker who is very unwell and yet they have Covid, so it is doing its job. It doesn’t mean people won’t get it.”
They were fully vaccinated early in the vaccine roll-out, Ardern said. She reiterated people who are vaccinated can still get Covid-19 “but they won’t get sick and they won’t die”.
“That’s what the vaccine is for – it’s to stop the pandemic becoming so dire that we see our hospitals full and people losing their lives. It means the symptom onset is greatly reduced.”
Early data showed it also reduced the likelihood the virus could be passed on to others.
The ministry said breakthrough infections happened with all vaccines.
“This shows us how important it is that as many New Zealanders as possible take up the offer to receive the vaccine when they are offered it and are protected. The more people that are vaccinated, the more protected we will all be.”
No change to trans-Tasman travel bubble
The new case came just one day into the start of a quarantine-free travel bubble for Australia and New Zealand.
Ardern said both countries had expected there would be cases of Covid-19 among border workers while the trans-Tasman bubble was open.
She had not spoken to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yet but said she would anticipate the border case would not alter the bubble arrangement.
A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Health later confirmed there was as yet no change to travel arrangements in response to the New Zealand border worker with Covid-19.
The person was tested regularly because they worked in an area of high risk, Ardern said.
Monday thousands of people flew across the ditch and enter New Zealand after the long-awaited end of mandatory quarantine for Australian travellers.
After almost 400 days, friends and family were reunited in airport arrivals lounges up and down New Zealand and in Australia.
By Joe Cusmano