New Zealand to Limit Returning Citizens as Quarantines Overflow
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand’s government will limit the number of citizens flying home with the national airline to reduce pressure on its overflowing quarantine facilities.
Bookings for seats on Air New Zealand flights “will be managed in the short term to ensure the government is able to safely place” arrivals into managed isolation or quarantine, Housing Minister Megan Woods said in a statement Tuesday. Air New Zealand said it has put a three-week hold on new bookings on international services into New Zealand following the government’s request.
Thousands of New Zealanders living abroad are flocking back to the South Pacific nation after it eliminated Covid-19 within its borders, allowing the government to lift all restrictions on people and businesses. The border remains closed to foreigners, and returning citizens or residents must serve two weeks in a managed isolation facility before they can re-enter the country in order to catch anyone infected with the virus.
Over 26,400 people have been through managed isolation and quarantine since March 26, Woods said. There are currently almost 6,000 people in 28 facilities, typically hotels approved for the purpose, and the government is working to increase capacity as arrival numbers rise.
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“Standing up new capacity at the required levels for people to stay in for 14 days of isolation is a hugely complex undertaking,” said Assistant Chief of Defence Darryn Webb, who was brought in to tighten controls after lapses at the border. “It needs appropriate levels of health and other services near by, New Zealand Defence Force personnel and extra security to ensure that people are looked after properly and the risk of Covid getting out into the community is minimized.”
He said the pause on new bookings will be temporary, allowing the government to increase supply to match forecast demand over the coming weeks. The government is also talking to other airlines about managing inflows.
Air New Zealand said it is also looking at aligning daily arrivals with the capacity available at managed isolation facilities, which may mean that customers with existing bookings will need to be moved to another flight.
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