Travellers' plans in turmoil due to coronavirus self-isolation requirement

Source: 1News

Thousands of New Zealanders' travel plans are now in turmoil after the latest measures the Government has implemented at the border as the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic worsens.

As of 1am on March 16 anyone entering New Zealand will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

"We were going to go to LA. We pretty much pulled the plug on that and we looked at other options. My fiancé is from Fiji, so we thought we’d go there. Our whole trip has sort of gone down the toilet,” One traveller told 1 NEWS.  

Last minute calls have been inundating Air New Zealand's call centre, with the airline having to increase customer service support to cope with inquiries.  

At the airport check-ins today, those leaving were resigned about what lies ahead on their return.

“I know that I’m coming home in about two months-time, so if there's still an isolation at that point, I'll be finished with work, so I’m not too worried about isolating for two weeks,” said another.  

For Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the focus is less about stopping all chances of coronavirus cases in New Zealand, but rather slowing down the rate of the outbreak.

“We won't be able to stop cases in New Zealand, but we can try and slow them which is exactly what these decisions are all about. It is about putting health first.”

The quarantine crackdown came as a significant blow for airlines, who say the restrictions came as a surprise.

“Moving all countries outside of the Pacific to a mandatory self-isolation was a swift and unexpected measure for airlines,” explains Justin Tighe-Umbers, Executive of the Board of Airlines Representatives New Zealand.  

Yesterday’s announcement has left airlines and their staff scrambling to cope with the changing regulations.

Mr Tighe-Umbers says the changes are placing considerable financial pressure on the aviation industry in New Zealand.

However, the government’s crackdown has been welcomed by public health experts with one calling for even broader measures to be placed in order to stop Covid-19 from spreading here.

“This means a huge ramping up of testing and diagnosis to identify cases and also follow up contact tracking and quarantines for those contacts, the end you’re looking at a military style operation,” says epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker.

The Prime Minister is already promising there will be a tough enforcement of these restrictions for people who don't comply.

“Things like spot checks to ensure people are self-isolating and if you don't self-isolate there are quarantine powers available to us. We can put you in a facility and monitor your movements,” says Jacinda Ardern.

Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand’s health system has plenty of capacity for testing future suspected cases of coronavirus.

“Yes, we will be testing more people, but we will be testing people who have symptoms.”