Update on Whole Genome Sequencing for Playa Zahara

Media release

16 July 2021

Preliminary results of whole genome sequencing from three crew members of the Playa Zahara fishing vessel show they have the Delta variant of COVID-19.

The results also show the variant isn’t linked to any previously confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Zealand or to a second fishing vessel the Viking Bay, which is currently quarantined in Wellington.

Sixteen of the 18 crew of the Spanish-flagged vessel have tested positive for COVID-19 and the Playa Zahara is currently on its way to Lyttelton.

Swabs were taken when the crew first arrived at Port Taranaki on Tuesday after reports of a flu-like illness on board. Standard Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) protocol, including the appropriate use of PPE, was used throughout the crew’s testing.

The most recent crew aboard the Playa Zahara had arrived in New Zealand on June 18 and spent two days at a managed isolation facility in Auckland. They provided negative pre-departure tests before arriving in New Zealand and again tested negative before boarding the ship.

The vessel will arrive in Lyttelton over the weekend.

On arrival at Lyttelton Port, 13 of the crew will be moved to a quarantine facility in Christchurch.

Five crew will remain aboard to maintain basic functions of the vessel.

Whole genome sequencing continues for the remaining crew members.

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