'COVID-19 Cruise Ship Exercise' provides inter-agency problem-solving practice
The Nelson Marlborough Health Protection team led forty-one attendees from fifteen different organisations in a COVID-19 Cruise Ship Exercise with the aim of strengthening lines of communication and preparing for a busy cruise season.
Pete Kara, Te Whatu Ora - Nelson Marlborough's Principal Advisor for Emergency Management, explains "the aim of the event was to provide agencies with an opportunity to review their emergency responses for cruise ship incidents ahead of summer."
Port Marlborough (Picton), Port Nelson, Customs, Iwi, MPI, Civil Defence, Maritime New Zealand, among other agencies, were challenged by Health Protection Officer and event organiser Colleen Kem with an imagined scenario: a new COVID-19 variant outbreak on a cruise ship, along with other complicating factors, such as a public protest to passengers disembarking, an exotic mosquito on board, and several COVID-related, and unrelated, medical emergencies.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre describes the exercise as a worst-case scenario made manageable by the high level of collaboration and communication between Public Health Services and partner agencies.
“We have significant experience and relationships are strong already. The success of the event reflected the strengthened collaboration through COVID management over the past two plus years, as well as great event organisation.
“A lot of the health protection work at ports and airports is invisible often, but we have a whole workforce at the border keeping our communities safe,” Dr Eyre says.
Colleen Kem explains that the ports will see a busy summer, with 58 ships due in Picton and 14 due in Nelson over the season. Kem says it is important to understand that there will be positive COVID-19 cases on board, but that the responding agencies are "confident in the COVID safety plans the cruise operators have presented, and, along with our partner agencies, we have the ability to stay agile in our response.”
Photo credit: Port Marlborough