Covid-19: Reassurance for Port of Tauranga workers
Reassurances are being given to people who work at Port of Tauranga, that following an order from the Ministry of Health on Friday night, they will not be penalised if they are unable to get tested for COVID-19 before midnight on Monday night.
“It's important that we take a flexible approach to our response to allow us to test as many of those as possible at our borders,” says Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
There has also been some confusion expressed across social media today as to whether COVID-19 testing for Port of Tauranga workers is free or whether there is a charge. COVID-19 testing is free.
The interpretation of a Ministry of Health order (Covid-19 Public Health Response (COVID-19 Testing) Order 2020) has been causing mayhem at ports for trucking operators, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett says.
"This morning [Saturday 15 August], we started hearing that ports were demanding all truck drivers who had been on the port since 21 July had to be tested for Covid-19 by 11.59pm on Monday 17 August," says Nick.
"This makes no sense and we questioned the Ministry of Transport at 10.13am this morning. They admitted there was some confusion and said they would come back to us.”
Nick requested that there be urgent clarification of the practical requirements of the Ministry of Health order for industry members.
"The RTF wishes to urgently clarify the contents and practical requirements of this Ministry of Health order for industry members. The requirements of the order must be clear and unambiguous,” says Nick. “What must also be made clear is why? Why is there a sudden panic by the Government around ports and freight?"
Early this evening, the Ministry of Health and the Bay of Plenty District Health Board issued a reassurance for people who work at Port of Tauranga.
“Our border workers play an important role in doing their jobs and keeping us safe,” says Dr Bloomfield.
“Comprehensive testing will provide one further assurance of this and it is pragmatic to take a few more days to ensure we've tested as many of our port workers as possible."
Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s Interim CE Simon Everitt said that staff have been working over the weekend with port staff, to set up a testing station on-site at the port, to ensure sufficient capacity to test all required workers.
Workers with symptoms of COVID-19 have been getting tested at their GP’s practice.
“We will be prioritising port staff who have been on-board a vessel in the last 14 days and/or those who have been in direct contact with crew,” sasy Simon. “Testing will begin next week.
“Port of Tauranga staff will be contacted by their company to allocate them a testing slot.
“If a staff member is unwell or has symptoms, please seek treatment from their GP and remain off work.
“In the meantime we acknowledge the uncertainty that workers have being feeling about how to organise their tests. We ask that people be patient as they will be able to get tested over the next week, and that people wait for further instructions from their employers, and allow general practices to focus on testing those people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and require testing.”
Port staff will be able to keep working while waiting for their COVID-19 test results to come back.
“While port staff are awaiting their test results, they can continue to work,” says EOC Incident Controller, Dr Joe Bourne.
“Across the Bay of Plenty, general practice and Pathlab have continued to assess and test people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Whilst those services have been busy, the numbers have been manageable and there is capacity for anyone who does present with symptoms.”
The COVID-19 symptoms include: a cough; a high temperature - at least 38˚C; shortness of breath; a sore throat; sneezing and runny nose; temporary loss of smell.