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Coronavirus: Kiwi ports step up ship screening on instruction from health ministry

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The screening process for ships entering New Zealand has been stepped up due to the global outbreak of coronavirus.

A Ministry of Health spokesman told Stuff that, from February 19,  three new questions had been asked of all vessels arriving from overseas.

All vessels arriving at their first New Zealand port were subject to a health clearance, which was standard practice, the spokesman said.

The master of a vessel submitted notice of arrival at least 48 hours beforehand, with a “health status update” 12 to 24 hours before arrival.

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However, due to coronavirus, three additional questions had been requested to be submitted when the health update was provided.

They included: Had the vessel departed or transited through mainland China in the last 14 days; were there any passengers/crew on board who had departed or transited through mainland China in the last 14 days; and were there any passengers/crew on board who had been in contact with a person confirmed or suspected to have coronavirus in the last 14 days.

Ben Hutchison, spokesman for Regional Public Health, the public health unit for the greater Wellington region, said it wasn’t aware of any passengers being refused entry into Wellington from its port.

The Ministry of Health has requested all ports in New Zealand to ask three further questions to incoming vessels to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. (File photo)

ROSA WOODS/STUFF

The Ministry of Health has requested all ports in New Zealand to ask three further questions to incoming vessels to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. (File photo)

“We follow a national response which is coordinated by the Ministry of Health,” Hutchison said.

The ministry  supplied regular “border advisories” which were also available on the ministry’s website.

A CentrePort Wellington spokesperson said if a notifiable illness was reported to the port, “appropriate quarantine protocols would be put into action”.

There were stringent health checks for all vessels – both cruise and cargo,  the spokesperson said.

The cruise industry had taken additional steps to prevent coronavirus spreading, including denying boarding to any passengers who were either exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus or who had travelled from, visited or transited via China within 14 days of embarkation.

Meanwhile, a Lyttleton Port spokesman said its port was not accepting any vessel which had been in a “high-risk area” in the 14 days prior to arrival.

A masked passenger disembarks from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

AP/EUGENE HOSHIKO

A masked passenger disembarks from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The health clearance changes have come amid Wellington’s busiest cruise season on record.

Wellington NZ spokesman David Perks said for the 2018/2019 cruise ship season, Wellington had 110 ships docked in its harbour.

Those ships brought more than 222,400 passengers to the city. The total economic boost from the passengers was estimated to be $56 million, Perks said.

With 127 cruise ships coming into Wellington this season, and an increase in passenger numbers, Perks said it was expecting a “significant increase in economic impact”.

More than 82,000 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus worldwide as at Thursday. At least 2800 people have died.

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