Air NZ will require all international passengers to be fully vaccinated from February 1, 2022 – and is also reviewing its domestic travel rules.
“We’re getting ready to reconnect with the world and letting customers know what they need to do to be ready to take off when we can,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran.
“Being vaccinated against Covid-19 is the new reality of international travel – many of the destinations Kiwis want to visit are already closed to unvaccinated visitors. The quicker we get vaccinated, the sooner we can fly Kiwis to places like New York, Vancouver and Narita.”
He said the airline had been hearing a lot of supportive feedback from customers and staff. “Mandating vaccination on our international flights will give both customers and employees the peace of mind that everyone onboard meets the same health requirements as they do.”
He acknowledged some people would disagree with the move. “However, we know this is the right thing to do to protect our people, our customers and the wider New Zealand community. We’ll spend the next few months making sure we get this right, ensuring it works as smoothly as possible for our customers. This also gives anyone wanting to travel from next year plenty of time to get their vaccination.”
The requirement would apply to all passengers aged 18 and older arriving or departing New Zealand.
Foran told TVNZ that people 18 and younger and those who can’t take the vaccine for medical reasons would be exempt.
The airline’s customer-facing staff need to be vaccinated, which includes about 75 per cent of all of its staff, he told Q+A.
Foran said the airline was still at a “wait and see” stage for whether domestic passengers will need to be fully vaccinated next year, but it was on the table.
Staff and customers had told the airline that safety was paramount, he said.
“Increasingly we may be in a situation where people need to be vaccinated to get into particular events.”
He said it was “exciting” to hear about Australia’s plans to open up international travel.
Foran said the current outbreak was a “really difficult situation”, which had hit Air NZ as well as other businesses – but lockdowns were a matter for the Government.
“At a point next year we’re going to be getting these borders open and people are going to be able to travel overseas.”
He said Air NZ was working on rolling out the International Air Transport Associations (IATA) Travel Pass app, which will let travellers know what they need before travelling.
The IATA Travel Pass will check customers’ health information against flight details to ensure they are meeting entry requirements for that destination, and the airline.
The app is based on decentralised technology which means there is no central database holding passenger information. Passengers have complete discretion as to whether they share their data or not and they can delete their data at any time on the app, without fear of this being stored.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that the borders will open up in November.
Australians who are fully vaccinated will be able to travel abroad and complete a seven-day quarantine at home on their return. People who are not vaccinated will be required to undertake 14 days of quarantine at a hotel when they return.
Morrison said he expects the first home quarantine systems to be up and running in November, but the timetable will be set by individual states and territories.
There was no timetable yet on when non-Australians would be allowed to enter Australia.
Cabinet only has to look at Sydney and Melbourne when it weighs up easing restrictions tomorrow for Auckland’s nearly seven-week lockdown.
That’s the view of epidemiologist Rod Jackson, who says just one mystery case of the highly infectious Delta variant of the Covid virus in the community and it will start a fire.
“If there are any mystery cases still out there, they(Cabinet) have to stay there. It’s a no brainer. It’s do you want Sydney or Melbourne?” said Jackson.
Across the ditch yesterday, Victoria recorded its highest daily Covid-19 figure on record with 1488 new cases and two deaths. In NSW, Covid numbers continued to fall, but the state still recorded 813 Covid cases and 10 deaths.
There were 27 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases yesterday, all in Auckland, of which 22 have been linked to known clusters, leaving five unlinked cases.
Yesterday’s figures bring the total of unlinked cases in the past fortnight to 10.
At Friday’s 1pm update, director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay said about 35 more new cases could emerge in the coming days among household contacts.
In the past week there has been a huge fluctuation of daily case numbers; eight were recorded on Tuesday, followed by 45 on Wednesday.
Counties Manukau DHB also advised the Ministry of Health of a possible exposure event at Middlemore Hospital on Friday night.
Jackson and two other experts, Te Pūnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank and epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker, do not support moving Auckland from level 3 to level 2 restrictions at this stage.
Baker said it was difficult to imagine moving down to level 2 in Auckland this week because not enough is known about the level of containment in level 3 yet and that will not be known until the middle of the following week.
“For a respiratory virus that is spread by aerosols, alert level 2 will put very little pressure on transmission of the virus and you would expect it to start spreading quite widely.
“I would be very concerned if there was a move down to alert level 2 at the moment,” said Baker.
Plank said moving to level 2 at this stage would be very dangerous with an uptake in mystery cases yesterday and another mystery case at Middlemore Hospital.
“There are signs we haven’t got this outbreak fully contained at level 3…moving to level 2 now would really just add fuel to the fire and there would be a real danger we could lose control of the outbreak,” he said.
Plank said Cabinet will be weighing up a range of factors tomorrow, including the economic implications, but had to remember having an uncontrolled outbreak is not good for the economy, particularly if it means going into strict lockdown.
On Friday night a person presented to Middlemore Hospital’s Emergency Department seeking treatment for issues unrelated to Covid-19, said the Counties Manukau DHB.
“The patient answered no to all screening questions but, while in triage, clinical staff noted the patient was displaying a Covid-like symptom and took steps to investigate, isolate and test.
“The patient subsequently returned a positive Covid-19 result and was moved to a Covid-19 isolation ward at Middlemore Hospital.
“The patient was wearing a mask at all times in ED. All staff were wearing appropriate PPE and as such no staff members are required to stand down.
“Counties Manukau Health’s Infection Prevention and Control team are working with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to identify potential contacts.”
Middlemore Hospital chief medical officer Pete Watson told the Herald that there had been a “steady stream” of Covid-positive patients arriving at the hospital with unrelated health conditions.
Covid-19 Response minister Chris Hipkins said earlier this week that high numbers of cases did not necessarily mean Auckland could not move down alert levels.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously signalled the Auckland boundary would remain in place if the region moved to alert level 2 next week.
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