Govt announces coronavirus travel restrictions

Passengers at Auckland Airport, where flights from Guangzhou and Shanghai had touched down. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen.

The Government is placing temporary entry restrictions into New Zealand on all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through mainland China to assist with the containment of the novel coronavirus and to protect New Zealand and the Pacific Islands from the disease.

This will take effect from tomorrow, Monday February 3, and will be in place for up to 14 days. This position will be reviewed every 48 hours.

Any foreign travellers who leave or transit through mainland China after February 1 2020 (NZ time) will be refused entry to New Zealand.

Any foreign travellers in transit to New Zealand on February 2 2020 will be subject to enhanced screening on arrival but, pending clearance, will be granted entry to New Zealand.

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning to New Zealand will still be able to enter, as will their immediate family members, but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival back in the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also raised its travel advice to New Zealanders for all of mainland China to “Do not travel”, the highest level.

“Cabinet convened last night to discuss the most up to date public health advice and recent developments in the spread of the virus. We have been advised by health officials that while there are still a range of unknowns in the way the virus is being transmitted, we should take a precautionary approach and temporarily stop travel into New Zealand from mainland China, and of people who have recently been in China,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“It is critically important that we both protect New Zealanders from the virus and play our part in the global effort to contain it.

“I am particularly mindful that we are a gateway to the Pacific, and must factor that into our decision making.

“We have been in close contact with our partners in the past 24 hours, and I have spoken on multiple occasions with Prime Minister Morrison to ensure we are each aware of any changes to our systems, and the wider impacts given the frequent travel between our two nations.

“The decision of the US to put in place similar restrictions to those decided by Cabinet has had a knock on effect in terms of travel, leading Air New Zealand and other airlines to stop their flights from China.

“The Cabinet is acutely aware of the economic impact of the virus, including on tourism, the primary sector and education. I have asked Ministers to make contact with industry leaders to mitigate some of these impacts as much as possible,” says Jacinda.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters stressed this is not a decision that has been taken lightly.

“Ultimately, this is a public health decision. The outbreak has been well managed by China, and these temporary measures are to reinforce work being done to try and reduce human to human transmission.

“New Zealand has not had a confirmed case of the virus and the risk of outbreak is low and we want to keep it that way. The health and safety of New Zealanders is our main priority.

“I have been in close contact with my Chinese counterpart on New Zealand’s decision and have conveyed New Zealand’s willingness to assist with China’s efforts to control and defeat the virus,” says Winston.

Health precautions finalised for Wuhan flight

Comprehensive health measures will be in place to prevent New Zealanders returning from Wuhan spreading the novel coronavirus, Health Minister Dr David Clark says.

An Air New Zealand charter flight is on track to evacuate dozens of New Zealanders, Pacific Islanders and Australian citizens in coming days. Final timing of the flight and passenger details are still to be confirmed, in consultation with Chinese authorities.

“The Government is doing all it can to help those New Zealanders at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan to return home as soon as possible,” says David.  

“We know this is a difficult and stressful time for those people stuck in Wuhan and their families. It’s important they receive the best possible care, but also that effective public health measures are in place to ensure the welfare of both passengers and crew.

“A key part of the process is now complete, with health planning finalised for pre-flight checks, in-flight safety measures and isolating passengers for 14 days upon arrival in New Zealand.

“Chinese authorities are already conducting temperature checks for all passengers who are departing from Wuhan.

“In addition, New Zealand St John staff, which includes a Medical Director and two paramedics, and an Air New Zealand Doctor will conduct further health checks prior to boarding.

“These checks will ensure all passengers are fit to fly.

“Measures are also being taken to ensure the safety of all the staff on the flight. Infection control gear will be worn whenever they come into close contact with passengers.

“Health staff will monitor passengers (who will be provided with facemasks) and give them advice during the flight.

“The charter flight will land some distance from the main terminal in Auckland, and further health screening will be conducted.

“Standard border control measures, such as biosecurity checks will be completed as a matter of priority.

“It is expected that any Australian citizens and residents will be transferred on to a dedicated flight (with its own health measures in place) across the Tasman in coordination with the Australian government.

“Returning New Zealanders and Pacific Island citizens will be transported to a military facility at Whangaparaoa, where they will spend 14 days in isolation.

“The training camp has been chosen because of its size and facilities, as well as its location and secure nature. It also has its own medical facilities.

“During the isolation period the returnees will receive daily medical checks. Families will be kept together where possible, but will remain isolated from other returnees.

“Efforts will be made to ensure they can maintain as normal a life as possible while in isolation: working remotely, meeting education needs for children and providing for leisure activities.

“Managing the return of people from a region experiencing an outbreak such as this is a major logistical challenge, but with meticulous planning and a precautionary approach we are now ready to bring New Zealand citizens home,” says Dr Clark.

 




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