Government seeks transit agreements to bring home New Zealanders

Government seeks transit agreements to bring home New Zealanders

Venkat Raman
Auckland, April 7, 2020

Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Winston Peters (From Facebook)

New Zealand is set to sign transit agreements with a number of countries to enable New Zealanders to return home from various parts of the world.

Many international airports in Asia, Middle East, Europe and the USA are transit points for people to connect their flights to travel to New Zealand. In most cases, they would be required to change aircraft for their onward flights to New Zealand airports.

However, with most international airlines scaling down more than 90% of their services because of fear of Covid-19 spread, New Zealand has to either operate long-haul flights to depend on other airlines (such as Qatar Airways) for help.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters is in the process of entering into transit arrangements.

Millions stranded everywhere

“There are millions of people around the world stranded by COVID-19 and we are continuing to do our part to help them get home. Accordingly, the Cabinet agreed yesterday (Monday, April 6, 2020) that New Zealand would seek reciprocal transit arrangements with a number of countries to enable our citizens to transit each other’s airports,” he said.

Mr Peters said that a barrier to New Zealanders getting home at present is the transit restrictions imposed by a number of countries.

His Ministry and its diplomats worldwide are seeking assistance from governments of these countries to enable New Zealanders to transit through their airports in order to come home.

Requests from foreign governments

“At the same time, New Zealand has received an increasing number of requests from foreign governments to allow the transit through Auckland of their nationals, including those currently in Pacific Island countries, so that they can connect with commercial or evacuation flights to their home countries,” Mr Peters said.

He said that New Zealand will adopt a strict criteria in determining who can transit New Zealand, which protect public health and meet New Zealand’s COVID-19 level four requirements.

Rules for transiting passengers

Transiting passengers must (a) must remain airside (b) cannot enter New Zealand (c) have a maximum 10-hour window to leave on their onward flight (d) must have no COVID-19 symptoms, no contact with a suspected or confirmed  case and not be awaiting test results; and (e) must have confirmation from the airline that they will be permitted to board for their entire journey, as well as confirmation prior to boarding that their destination country will permit arrival.

On March 25, 2020 as a part of COVID-19 restrictions, New Zealand airports were closed to transiting passengers, with the exception of Australian citizens.

The decision of the Cabinet yesterday opens the potential for transits by foreign nationals, subject to strict compliance of the safety regulations covering Covid-19.

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