An Auckland aircraft cleaner who was vaccinated early on in New Zealand’s vaccine rollout has tested positive for COVID-19 on only the second day of a much-lauded quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia.
Health officials are confident the cleaner was infected during their work which involves cleaning planes coming from ‘high risk’ international destinations where the virus is rife.
So far, there is no evidence of community transmission and family members have tested negative for the virus. In February, an airport worker is believed to have caught COVID-19 from infected airline laundry that had been taken off a recently arrived plane from a high-risk location.
That case grew into a cluster that ended up with Auckland going into a partial lockdown.
On this occasion, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is confident that this isolated case won’t threaten the travel bubble. Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt has also told reporters that this single case shouldn’t burst the much-anticipated bubble.
The infected cleaner had received their first dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in February and the second and final shot was administered in March. New Zealand has prioritised border workers for the vaccine because the vast majority of Coronavirus cases detected in New Zealand are associated with international travel.
“We know the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective, but at 95% effectiveness, a small number may not be protected. Breakthrough infections happen with all vaccines,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Health warned on Tuesday.
The cleaner was diagnosed following weekly routine PCR testing conducted at their workplace.
Following the positive test result, they were immediately asked to self-isolate at their home. They will then be moved to a dedicated quarantine facility.
A list of locations where the cleaner could have exposed members of the public to the virus has been released, although health officials are keen to point out that the overall risk to the wider community remains low.
Pop up testing has been set up at Auckland International Airport
Photo Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.