Friday saw the first person in New Zealand to be confirmed with coronavirus as cases pop up around the world, but questions remain around how that person got through the airport’s screening process undetected.
In his 60s, the person was opted to self-isolate last week after flying from Iran back to New Zealand.
He went through airport screening undetected and was allowed to return home before being admitted to hospital.
Both the Health Minister and the Prime Minister have this morning defended the screening process at New Zealand airports on TVNZ1’s Breakfast, despite that person getting through.
“I just wonder how a fellow who was so sick that he took himself to hospital was able to so easily pass through the airport, particularly when he’d come from Iran,” Breakfast host Campbell said while talking with the Health Minister.
“This just sounds a little bit casual, that’s all... How the hell do we get this right?”
The process is “anything but casual”, Dr David Clark responded.
“If anything, the airport has really ramped up here just for public assurance reasons,” said Dr Clark.
He said the captains on planes also have an obligation to call ahead if they have concerns.
“If somebody has Covid-19 in active phase, they’ve got a fever of 38, they can hardly walk. They’re easy to spot,” said Dr Clark.
“If, for example, though the person is in the early phases, they don’t have any symptoms. They’re going to look just like you and I. Anybody could be in that position.”
Jacinda Ardern has also this morning defended the screening process. She said New Zealand has gone well above what the World Health Organization has recommended. She said the airports are doing more than handing out pamphlets, including temperature checks and having travellers manually processed instead of going through e-gates.
“Every single international traveller coming into New Zealand will this week be hearing an audio message over the plane announcing the requirements when you’re in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern told Breakfast.
She said travellers also get a physical handout, and e-gates have been closed for many destinations so customs officers can manually process those arriving here.
“That is actually more than many countries will be doing," the Prime Minister said. "There are temperature checks at the airport, and I spoke to public health officials yesterday.
“It’s much more than you've seen in other places, and it is an aggressive approach.”
Eighteen people who were identified as having sat in the "seats of interest" around the passenger who tested positive with Covid-19 have been placed in supervised self-isolation.
The person is also said to be in an improving condition.