Two New Zealand Defence Force personnel – one civilian and one military – have tested positive for COVID-19.
FILE PHOTO (Sept 2018): The then outgoing Chief of Air Force now Vice Chief of Defence Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies (centre) with New Zealand’s CDF Air Marshal Kevin Short, right, and new Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark. NZDF photo.
While Vice Chief of Defence Force Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies didn’t specifically say, CONTACT assumes these to be the first COVID-19 cases in the NZDF, given that we’ve seen no other announcements and given the small number of cases across New Zealand generally.
The first positive case – announced by the Ministry of Health (MoH) on Friday evening – was a serviceperson who had been working in the quarantine facility in Auckland as part of Operation Protect, NZDF’s contribution to the all-of-government effort, which has enabled nearly 70,000 New Zealanders to return home.
The second case was a civilian NZDF employee who met the infected serviceperson in Auckland on Wednesday, before the serviceperson tested positive.
MoH’s contact tracing process identified the civilian as a close contact of the serviceperson, and they subsequently tested positive.
The civilian is based in NZDF headquarters, Defence House, in Wellington and travelled from Auckland to Wellington on flight NZ457 last Thursday evening, seated in row 23.
All nearby passengers were being contacted, asked to get tested and to isolate themselves and their households until the passengers receive a negative test.
The NZDF civilian is now in a quarantine facility in Wellington – and five household contacts are in self-isolation and being tested.
The serviceperson is being cared for and has provided an excellent account of his movements in order to enable a rapid and thorough contact-tracing process.
Air Vice Marshal Davies said Defence House, where about 1300 NZDF personnel work, had been closed for a deep clean.
“All staff will be working from home until further notice,” he said.
“Other organisations based in Defence House are being advised and their staff will also be working from home.”
Air Vice Marshal Davies said contact tracing was being undertaken and any close contacts of the affected person had already been identified and notified.
“NZDF will be circulating health messages and advice to all staff.
“We take the health and safety of our military personnel and civilian employees very seriously, and we will be doing everything we can to keep people informed and manage the situation.
“We are also in contact with the Ministry of Health, and are abiding by their protocols.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our people and their families and whanau safe while we undertake these important roles that directly contribute to the protection and security of New Zealand and New Zealanders.
“Our efforts have directly contributed to the AoG effort that has enabled so many New Zealanders to return home to Aotearoa via the managed isolation and quarantine process.
“Our people must continue to support the AoG response to COVID-19, and we will continue to do all that we can to keep them safe.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The contrast between this public notification and the Australian Defence Force’s ongoing notifications is stark. While the ADF’s first notification came close in its detail, the ADF quickly adopted a very minimalist approach, making zero public statements (except in one notable overseas case). The New Zealand press release even said “Vice Chief of Defence Force Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies is available for interview”.