New Zealand reported 25 new coronavirus cases today, which is the highest number of daily cases the country has seen since early April. But there’s something about these cases that’s quite interesting in the context of pre-travel testing, quarantining, and more.
18 COVID-19 cases directly linked to one flight
New Zealand has by all accounts been one of the most successful countries in the world when it comes to managing the coronavirus pandemic. There’s disagreement about the cost at which this has been achieved, but purely in terms of the number of cases, the country has done exceptionally well.
New Zealand has more or less closed its borders, with the exception of some essential travelers. But even those travelers have needed to get tested and quarantine.
A total of 235 people who are part of a fishing crew arrived in New Zealand this week, which was supposed to be the first of two such flights. The flight operated from Moscow to Christchurch via Singapore, and the passengers stayed on the plane in Singapore.
18 of the travelers ended up testing positive for coronavirus upon arrival in New Zealand. That’s obviously high no matter what (that represents nearly 8% of passengers), but there’s something that makes this particularly concerning:
- The travelers were required to self-isolate for 14 days prior to travel
- The travelers were tested for coronavirus prior to travel
- Two people were even taken off the flight for having tested positive, and they’re not accounted for in the 18 people who tested positive on arrival
What should we make of this situation?
We’ve seen airlines and the travel industry at large heavily campaign for the concept of testing in lieu of quarantine, and based on most of the data we’ve seen so far, that seems reasonable.
Suffice to say that this situation is concerning, where travelers were not only supposed to self-quarantine, but were also allegedly tested prior to travel.
This raises quite a few questions:
- Did many of the travelers not actually follow the self-quarantine requirement prior to travel?
- Even if they didn’t quarantine prior to travel, what happened that caused 18 people to test negative before travel, and then positive after travel, less than 24 hours later? The incubation period could easily explain this for maybe one or two people, but not for 18 people…
- Was everyone actually tested as claimed, and were the tests working as they were supposed to?
New Zealand has been one of the strictest countries when it comes to managing coronavirus. Despite the requirement for a pre-travel quarantine and pre-travel testing, 18 travelers on a single flight to New Zealand still tested positive for coronavirus, representing nearly 8% of the passengers.
For the sake of the airline industry on the whole, one would hope that there was some fluke or oversight here (that the quarantine wasn’t followed, and that testing in Russia was faulty), rather than this representing a bigger overall issue.
What do you make of this New Zealand situation?