Asia & Pacific

Vaccinated Airline Staff Contracts COVID-19 Days After NZ Gov’t Praises Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble

The cleaner was diagnosed at a routine PCR test at the workplace, sparking a cluster of infections and later, a partial lockdown across Auckland, media reports revealed.

An aircraft cleaner in Auckland vaccinated against COVID-19 has tested positive for the virus just days after the government announced a trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand, media reported on Tuesday.

Health officials believe the cleaner was infected by COVID-19 while cleaning planes from high-risk international destinations, potentially from laundry infected with the virus, according to reports.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident the case would not disrupt the travel bubble. Australian health minister Greg Hunt added the isolated case should not affect the upcoming travel bubble.

“These are the kind of scenarios where we would anticipate movement continuing. Our Minister of Health has kept in touch with his counterpart. They’re directly communicating and so are our officials,” she said as reported by SBS News.

The cleaner had received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech jab in February and a second in March.

“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,” the New Zealand Ministry of Health said in a statement on Tuesday.

The worker was requested to self-isolate at home after the positive diagnosis, and will later be moved to a quarantine facility.

The news comes just days after an Israeli study found the South African B.1.351 variant could potentially break Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine efficacy, but added the COVID-19 strain was low in Israel and the vaccine was highly effective.

“We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group. This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection,” Tel Aviv University’s Adi Stern said in a statement.

The 9 April medRxiv study surveyed 400 people who had contracted the disease despite receiving one to two jabs compared to the same number of patients not vaccinated against the disease.

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