Government looks to limit the flow of passengers back into the country as quarantine facilities fill up

Government looks to limit the flow of passengers back into the country as quarantine facilities fill up

The Government's asked Air New Zealand to temporarily halt inbound bookings into the country as quarantine facilities get filled to overflowing.

A statement issued by the Government gave no indication of how long the halt on bookings would last for, only that it would be "short term".

The Government says it's also talking to other airlines about managing the flow of people into the country.

There's currently 28 quarantine/isolation facilities up and running, with plans to add capacity for another 750 people in coming weeks.

The numbers of those arriving into the country in recent weeks has continued to increase, with 5,697 people currently in managed isolation and quarantine.

Over 26,400 people have been through managed isolation and quarantine since 26 March.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said on Tuesday that bookings for seats on Air New Zealand flights into New Zealand "will be managed in the short term to ensure the Government is able to safely place New Zealanders arriving home into a managed isolation or quarantine facility".

Woods said she and Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who is in charge of the quarantine facilities,  met last week with Air New Zealand’s chief executive Greg Foran to "discuss safe and robust ways to jointly manage the big growth in New Zealanders coming home". 

“Air New Zealand has agreed to put a temporary hold on new bookings in the short term, as well as looking at aligning daily arrivals with the capacity available at managed isolation facilities," she said. 

Woods said people who have already booked flights with Air New Zealand will still be able to enter New Zealand "subject to availability of quarantine space".

“We have seen similar moves in Australia, where passenger numbers into Sydney have been limited following the suspension of flights into Melbourne because of the surge in Covid cases in Victoria. They too are having to manage the flow of people into the country to match availability of managed isolation beds." 

Woods said the country was seeing "rapid growth" in the numbers of New Zealanders coming home as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens. 

“Our number one priority is stopping the virus at the border, so everyone must to go into quarantine or managed isolation. The Government is also talking to other airlines about managing flows.

“The last thing we need are hastily set up facilities to meet demand, so we must have a manageable number of fit-for-purpose, safe facilities that do the job of stopping Covid at the border." 

Air Commodore Webb said there were 28 managed isolation facilities, and they were "scaling up more spaces all the time".

"...But we need to do so safely and new facilities need to be watertight before they are opened." 

"Standing up new capacity at the required levels for people to stay in for 14 days of isolation is a hugely complex undertaking; 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 minimised.

 “These temporary measures will ease the current demand on facilities while additional supply is brought on line. 

"In the past three weeks we have brought on capacity of 10 new facilities for 2,000 more people, and have a plan to bring on another 750 places in the coming weeks.

“The pause on new bookings will be short-term, and allows us to increase supply to match forecasted demand over the coming weeks. 

“We are closely monitoring the situation and working with Air New Zealand to smooth demand and ensure returnees can be safely housed in managed isolation facilities,” Webb said.

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56 Comments

Let the rationing begin. Your spot on the list determined by the percentage of your life physically lived in NZ.

Good decision but your idea has got some issues, dad and mum who lived in NZ for 20 years can come back but have to leave their 3 & 5 year old kids behind overseas?

Dependants follow the fortunes of their parents. As has ever been the case.

yes , let us redefine citizenship as we each please.

How does that help address the problem of an obvious need to ration and the best system for doing this ?

My point is that there is no "best system" - every and each of us ( myself included ) will have an opinion on what is should be - that others will find completely unfair . We cannot and should not try to create citizenship classes of the fly.
This leaves a ballot as the least bad solution.

Easiest way is first in first out
Rationing would be a commercial and political minefield

How about putting the fake "permanent" residents to the bottom of the list. Clearly if they are living overseas, they are not "permanent" residents at all.

Exactly right. Actually, I would modify the current immigration laws:
- if you get permanent residency, this is deemed a "temporary citizenship"
- once you get it, you must live in NZ and pay taxes for at least 3 years out of the next 5
- once the 5 years have passed, you have 1 year to acquire NZ citizenship (subject to good character requirements), otherwise your permanent residency expires automatically

The new arrivals are sure to vote in the September elections right ? Better not piss them off then.

Great idea.

10
up

What I don't get is, what took them (the govt) so long to have this lightbulb moment?? It's not rocket science. This govt has truly made reaction (as opposed to proaction) an artform. It's a good idea but woefully late.

A casual scan of the commentary on this site shows that weeks ago there was a widespread understanding that this was going to be an issue that required a solution. It seems however not to have occurred to this transparently transformational government which apart from the decision to go full noise lockdown has been mostly reactive.

Yeah it is so easy to setup and manage a watertight quarantine hotel, i'm surprised we don't have 100,000 beds avaialble already. Seen as it's all so obvious middleman, are you offering to help out and have a few new arrivals doss down at yours?

Exactly. It's easy to come up with ideas. The difficult part is always in the details - planning, organisation and implementation. Reminds me of all the 'business type' geniuses on various programming forums looking for programmers to implement their revolutionary ideas for "a share of the profits". Ideas like "facebook but better", "google but better" etc.

The person. That's my point - can't be done. Therefore entry will need to be rationed. Has for ages been bleedingly obvious we'd get here

Yeah, so when did the government come up with this plan for rationing?

You're just hearing about it in the media now - because it's required now. That doesn't mean the government weren't thinking about it 6 weeks ago.

There was a whole bunch of documents released about the government's COVID preparations recently. I guess you can sift through those and then tell us that the government had not thought about this until this week, since you're convinced that's the case.

I mean what's more likely: that the government who has hundreds of people whose full time job is to think about these things (and who have been managing hundreds of aspects and details about the COVID-19 response that you have no clue about at all), didn't have this idea cross any of their minds at all in the last 6 weeks but some random commentors on interest.co.nz did, or that you simply didn't hear anything about this until this week because it hasn't been necessary until this week?

Probably they've been talking to Air NZ about this for several weeks already.

So your compaint is that the government is doing what is obviously needed?

Apparently he thinks the government should be announcing some preparations they have for COVID weeks in advance of needing them. Apparently he doesn't understand how important clear, concise and relevant communication is and thinks the government should just overwhelm us with lots of information about stuff that is not yet relevant.

Yep, mummy has everything in hand. We'll be told when the right time comes. Those repeated bungling stuff ups are just trifling mistakes that we little children don't need to worry ourselves about.

And if the libertarians had their way they wouldn't have ever closed the borders. We'd be free to die as it would be our choice right?

Plenty of us with libertarian instincts supported full lockdown. Group think is more the domain of tribalist lefties.

Nah just experience of the last 40 years. But fair enough if you supported full lockdown, I'm in agreement with you there.

Just not the boring handholding comments, reckon you can do better than that.

Hah. True though. Bet even a star crossed Cindy lover like you secretly feels from time to time just a tad infantilised by her. It's OK to confess, you won't be judged.

No, they did not want to warn anyone about the ensuing problems or hint that travel from Australia on the only available carrier AIRNZ may be restricted. Otherwise, they would have had a flood of future bookings from returning New Zealanders. Which they would have needed to honour. So they just halted bookings with no notice and informed the public via the media this morning.

Exactly, Keep the mushrooms in the dark and well fed. Hopefully some of the food will hit the fan and shower the right people.

Perhaps someone jumping the fence flicked the switch?
The government can only do so much and it relies on compliance.
We have laws that prohibit speeding, for instance, and yet they are broken every day. That isn't the fault of Government, but those who break the rules.

what rules have the people who booked their flights to NZ and now cannot board have broken ?

Flights get cancelled due to weather etc all the time. There is no consumer law provision anywhere that demands a carrier must transport you during a global pandemic.

They haven't broken any rules. But every time you leave the country you carry a slight risk that re entry may be difficult. Eyjafjallajokull or Tambora may erupt, 911 could shut down travel, Chernobyl 2 might spawn a deadly cloud. They chose to not stay safe at home of their own fee will. As will I as soon as I'm allowed out but you won't hear any bleating from me if I get stuck somewhere.

true. I was responding to the post by bw suggesting that it is the "rule-breakers" are to blame somehow.

OK. As you can probably tell I have my kickers in a bit of twist over the snivelling whingers complaining about limits to our ability to cope with excess demand in this major crisis. One of the very few capable ministers Ardern has is now running the show with mercifully the previous incompetent dads army led by a captain mainwaring copper now put out to pasture. We are doing our best but its clear there are capacity limits. So, really, time to give the bleating a rest and wait your turn.

Every time we see a single problem and solution in isolation the process looks easy.

Problem is, in reality there will be thousands of these hitting fallible human staff every day, many with interrelated effects and implications.

Looking for a change of government Hook ? Certainly the National Party are more aligned to your support for the CCP.

Well you compare our situation to the way its being handled in Australia, i think comparatively we're doing pretty well.

Plus it is hard to set up something from scratch when you dont know the quantity of the inputs.

Very true. You do not need to be a genius to foresee this happening. Many things have been done well, but this is very amateurish indeed.

Fine - show us the posts you were making predicting this, 4 months ago.

14
up

This is not rationing
it is governing the flow to a manageable rate
Which of course is what they should have done for immigration the last 10 years!

OK. Same concept but different label. Agree with your last para.

Stopping Air NZ bookings has the effect of mostly halting NZ residents returning ex Australia. But Meanwhile foreign flag carriers wide-body flights can continue to arrive en masse. Assume the government have no way of controlling passenger numbers on those flights. We granted the landing rights so we just need to deal with those who turn up. It's a seller's market for airfares with demand in both directions. So can't blame the airlines for wanting to make some much-needed cash.

I think the Government can imppose seating limits on each flight. Why not ?

Parliament is sovereign. They can do whatever they want.

Just that all of the Bi-Lateral air service agreements would have to be overridden. Then once the pandemic is over and we want the tourists back again. Those countries and their airlines may remember how they were treated and respond accordingly.

Yip, that's a possible outcome of Parliament exercising their sovereign power.

Do what Japan is doing. Citizens only.

Do you include citizens with dual-citizenship

or anyone who can speak a foreign language ?

They should also introduce pre-boarding testing and obtaining of a negative result, before they are allowed to board at the overseas centre. If some NZ citizens test positive overseas, they should be assisted with the necessary quarantine there.

But if they're NZ citizens, they'll still arrive here anyway. We will subject them to 14 days isolation because if they tested negative, they could still get sick on the plane. So requiring a pre test doesn't achieve much.

If all the passengers and the air crew have a negative clearance then the chances of the infection happening on the flight itself would be slim.

Are you the same sort of contrarian as the "plan B" people?

Didn't get what you mean...Plan B is not always contrarian and sometimes it is better than Plan A or No Plan, right ?

Contrarian. An issue with that is credibility of testing in other countries where corruption is widespread and certificates for just about anything can be bought. EG following the recent Pakistan plane crash it emerged that one third of all Pakistan airlines pilots had paid someone else to sit their qualifying test and that invigilators has likely also been complicit.

Granted that. Still the majority would have the genuine test and we can cut down the need to crisis manage here.
I think Germany has this in place, with speedy tests done at the airport, albeit for a charge of DM150 or so.
This will make the other passengers and the air crew feel safe.

Exactly what I said that they needed to do weeks ago. Why was this not obvious to them at the outset?

We've got at least AKL,CHC all WLG,INV,ZQN,DUD,HLZ (aussie) that can take international flights. There are plenty of options to expand quarantine facilities

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